Joe Nathan speaks up at team meeting

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted that he urged new closer Joe Nathan to speak, asking him in the middle of the club's team meeting Sunday to say a few words.

"He's a veteran and I wanted guys to hear what he had to say," Washington said.

Nathan said he spoke after Michael Young and several members of the coaching staff said a few words about moving on from 2011 and into a new season.

"I talked about what it looks like from the outside looking in," Nathan said. "For me, watching that, they were the better team. What happened is baseball. Stuff happens in this game is sometimes unexplainable, but it doesn't mean they weren't the better team and I'm excited to be here and that they had nothing to be ashamed about."

Nathan isn't concerned at all about the club dwelling too much on the Game 6 disappointment or not focusing on 2012. He sees a team ready to get started on the challenge of returning to the World Series a third consecutive time and winning it this time.

"I don't think anybody is hanging their heads about last year," Nathan said. "I don't think there's a reason to hang your heads about last year. They've got a lot of things to be proud of about what they did last year. Even though it's tough and you want to win and had a chance to win, you've still got to be excited about where this team is and where this team has been and 28 other teams wanted to be in their spot even though it was a tough way to go down."

Nathan also got to hear his first Washington speech. The manager hinted that he got on a bit of a roll during the meeting but didn't give any details. Fans got a taste of his motivational skills when a recording was made of his speech prior to Game 7 of the World Series. Washington was upset that was made public because it was something said in the privacy of the clubhouse. But he added that there wasn't any part of what he said that he'd take back. (And why would he? It was a great speech.)

Washington believes his club is focused this spring.

"They're ready to prepare for 2012," Washington said. "The championship runs through Texas. Everyone's here so we can go through the process of defending [our title]."

Nathan said it was fun to hear Washington address the team.

"It was good," Nathan said. "It comforts a lot of guys, especially the newer guys, myself, the young guys. It's about getting comfortable with the system here and the way things are run. That's one good thing Wash does during the talk is get you laughing and get you comfortable and get you ready to play baseball.

"You know what to expect and what is expected of you on the baseball field and just go out and do that. Obviously in this game you're not going to be perfect, but as long as you're busting your butt while you're out there, that's all they can ask of you."

Can't you hear Washington's voice in that last sentence? It's clear he's already rubbing off on the new closer.

Nathan doesn't consider himself a vocal leader and is aware that he's a newcomer to a club that already has good leadership. But he's always willing to offer advice and help when needed. And for a guy who has been a starter, middle reliever, long reliever and closer (not to mention dealing with injuries), he has plenty of knowledge to impart to those who need it.

"It's more by example and doing the right things on and off the field and that's the way I've led," Nathan said. "I'll just let that stuff kind of take care of itself."