STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The dissatisfaction Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels feels about the team missing the playoffs is no reflection of how he regards manager Ron Washington.
While the Rangers aren’t in the playoffs for the first time in four years, Daniels said Thursday that he feels “as strong about” Washington as he ever has.
Washington has only next season remaining on his contract, but Daniels plans to sit down with him to discuss that situation. Texas has averaged more than 91 wins a year the past five seasons and made its only two World Series appearances in that span.
Asked if it was a fair assumption Washington would get a contract extension, Daniels replied, “That would be my preference.” The GM said he hadn’t yet had an opportunity to speak with ownership about that.
During more than 45 minutes discussing the season, Daniels also acknowledged that major league strikeout leader Yu Darvish (13-9, 277 strikeouts) dealt with a nerve issue in his lower back for than a month at the end of the season. The pitcher had an injection Wednesday and was flying home to Japan for about a month. The Rangers expect him to be fully healthy by next spring.
For the second year in a row since their AL championship seasons in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers were done after losing a must-win game in their 163rd game. They lost in the first AL wild-card game at home last year and this week missed the playoffs with 91 wins after losing at home to Tampa Bay in the majors’ first wild-card tiebreaker game since 2007.
“On one hand, we’ve averaged over 90 wins the last five years, we’ve had a lot of success organizationally, a lot of individuals having a lot of success. … We’re in the middle of what we feel is a tremendous run,” Daniels said. “At the same time, one-and-done is not good enough. It’s two years in a row we’ve been in this spot, and it hurts. I can tell you we want more.”
Daniels had just completed his first year as GM when he fired Buck Showalter after the 2006 season and replaced him with the longtime Oakland third-base coach who then had no major league managerial experience. Washington now is the team’s winningest manager (611-522) after seven seasons.
“To the degree that that was any speculation (about his job) late in the year … that was always rumor mill-driven,” Daniels said. “I feel the same way, just as strong about Wash as I ever have.”
After an AL-best record of 20-7 in August and with a two-game lead in the AL West, the Rangers started September with a 5-15 slide. That included being swept in a six-game homestand by Pittsburgh and Oakland, though they won all seven games on their last homestand to force the tiebreaker.
It was the second year in a row a September slump cost the Rangers the AL West title. There was a 4-9 finish to the 2012 regular season.
The Rangers’ staff ERA of 3.62 was their best since 1983. But after losing sluggers Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli in free agency last winter, their 730 runs were the fewest in a full season since 1992.
” Who would have thought five, six years ago we’d be talking about the pitching being the strength of the club,” Daniels said.
And the core of the starting rotation is still signed for multiple years, including Darvish and left-handers Derek Holland (10-9) and Matt Harrison, the year’s opening day starter who pitched only twice before two operations on a herniated disk in his lower back.
Darvish didn’t pitch past the sixth inning in any of his last three starts, though the Rangers won each of those games. Texas was 0-6 his six previous starts, five of them one-run games (including consecutive 1-0 losses).
Daniels said the nerve started bothering Darvish in August, and that the team agreed with the pitcher’s decision not to have the injection during the season.
“Effectively he had a nerve issue in his lower back that caused him to use strength after a period of time in his right leg,” Daniels said. “He wasn’t as powerful as he wanted to be after being out there for an extended period. … He chose not to have injection because it would have required him to miss a start. He did not want to do that, he wanted to take the ball every five days. I commend him for that.”