Rangers extend Washington's contract through 2009

ARLINGTON, Texas -- While the Texas Rangers are still a long
way from where they want to be, they exercised their 2009 option on
rookie manager Ron Washington's contract Thursday.

General manager Jon Daniels said the extension was an "easy
decision" that he had been planning for some time.

Even though the Rangers are last in the AL West, they are 38-30
since mid-June after completing a three-game sweep of the
Chicago White Sox with a 5-1 victory Thursday night. Texas has a
season-best five-game winning streak and has five straight winning
homestands for the first time since 1998.

"Look what we've done the last three months after an obviously
rocky start," Daniels said. "The constant and one of the biggest
reasons we turned this thing around and played well in the face of
adversity and some changes is [Washington]."

Texas has won even since trading Mark Teixeira, Kenny Lofton and
Eric Gagne at the end of July. Plus, reliever Akinori Otsuka hasn't
pitched since June and slugger Sammy Sosa has been relegated to a
part-time player in the same season he joined the 600-homer club.

Washington got a two-year contract that included two additional
option years when he replaced Buck Showalter in November. He was
chosen over four other finalists for the job.

A coach the past 11 seasons for the Oakland Athletics,
Washington's only managerial experience had been two years in the
low minors.

"I'm just as happy today as the first day Jon offered me the
job," Washington said. "This just shows the organization is going
in the right direction. ... What we've accomplished is an excellent
attitude, we have accomplished an attitude to make sure we go out
and be true to the game."

The Rangers have had only one winning season since last making
the playoffs in 1999, after their only three division titles in a
four-year span. Texas has never won a playoff series.

Since the trades at the deadline, the Rangers have focused on
the evaluation of young players like Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts and
David Murphy. They are also playing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the
highly touted 22-year-old prospect who came from Atlanta in the
Teixeira deal, every day at first base or catcher.

"Ron, for me, is the perfect partner as we grow this thing and
continue to develop," Daniels said. "He is a teacher at heart, a
winner and has a passion for the game. ... We're clearly not where
we want to be. But with the guys we traded, the guys who have been
hurt, for us to have gotten better says a lot about the manager and
coaching staff and the direction they have set."

The Rangers dug themselves into too deep an early hole to
contend in the AL West. They were already 13½ games back by the end
of May.