Andrus says Woodward had great spring with Rangers
Ask an MLB player what he wants most, and chances are he will say consistency.
That doesn’t just apply to how well he plays.
He wants a consistent routine before each game. He wants to know where he’s batting every day. He wants a heads-up the day before he isn’t going to play.
He wants a manager and coaches who are going to be just as consistent as he is and who are going to coach and communicate the way they did in spring training.
That’s not all that will be asked of Chris Woodward in his first season as Texas Rangers manager, but the most important thing he needs to do in 2019 and beyond is to not change who he has been.
“You can’t prepare for everything, but it’s how you handle a situation and how you prepare for it,” Woodward said. “There are just a lot of little factors we’re trying to stay ahead of and clean them up as we go. I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect, but I’m trying to communicate everything with the players and with the staff so that they know what my expectations are.
“It’s not going to be perfect for everybody, but this is the way it is.”
The lines of communication were open throughout the off-season and at the Surprise Recreation Campus the past six weeks. Feedback from players was welcomed. Woodward oozed positivity, even when dropping the hammer on a player’s roster hopes.
Players feel like they can be themselves without looking over their shoulder. They feel like they can survive a long slump and not be worried about getting moved to the bench or moved to the minors and losing their job.
They know that the regular season is a different beast than spring training, where wins and losses don’t matter much and where the vibe is far more laid back. That will change as soon as Mike Minor throws the first pitch Thursday.
In-game decisions will be debated by the media, and more quietly by the players. Criticism that was nearly non-existent in spring training will come at Woodward on a daily basis.
He’s ready. He’s going to welcome it, at least from those on the Rangers’ payroll.
“Just be open to criticism,” Woodward said. “I’ve preached that to the players, and I’ve preached that to my staff. I have to do the same thing. I’ve told my staff, ‘Feel free to tell me if things aren’t right.’ I’ve told the players to do the same thing. Sometimes I’ll tell them I can’t do anything different, but I’m going to do the best I can.”’
If creating a more relaxed atmosphere and improving communication were Woodward’s top goals entering camp, he has done so.
Players have been told that process is as important as results. Armed with new data and in many instances asked to make changes to their swings or deliveries, players are diving in and also being reinforced when the results haven’t been there.
“He was just a guy who was the same every day,” said left fielder Joey Gallo, one of those making changes to his swing and approach. “He wasn’t really results-drive. He was more about the process. That’s one thing that huge for use in the stage we’re in right now with a bunch of young guys.
“And how he created that environment of letting us be loose and have fun but at the same time work hard, I’m very excited about the season with him.”
How excited Gallo will be if he has 100 strikeouts by the All-Star break and how excited the Rangers will be if they are out of contention by the end of May remains to be seen.
How excited will Woodward be if the three starting pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery are injured by mid-May?
That’s part of the regular-season test that could be facing Woodward.
He doesn’t want to be a rah-rah type who makes every game seem like it’s do or die. He will support his players and be excited for their successes, but he understands that adding pressure each game adds to the 162-game grind.
“I’m not a rah-rah guy because rah-rah would be about getting caught up in results,” Woodward said. “I don’t have a problem backing my guys every single pitch of every game. I don’t burn out. That’s probably my biggest strength. But there’s going to be a lot of difficulty.
“As a young manager, how am I going to handle that? Do I want to win my first 20 games? Of course, I do, but we could be 2-18. You just don’t know. So, am I going to quit at that point? Am I going to stress? Am I going to freak out? No.”
In other words, he said, no one is going to hit the panic button after a loss. If something needs to be addressed, it will be addressed with input from the staff and the players.
It’s a two-way street of communication, and Woodward doesn’t plan on changing that or anything about who he was in spring training.
The regular season, which begins at 3:05 Thursday afternoon, will be the true test.
“His main points and main focus this spring were about communication, having a good vibe and having good energy,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “The season’s about to start. He has to change a little bit, especially his strategy. But the way he is personality-wise and communication-wise, I hope and think it won’t change.”