Players react to manager's positive test

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If anyone can understand what Ron Washington is going through, it's Josh Hamilton.

The Rangers slugger, who has dealt with drug and alcohol addiction problems, found out with the rest of his teammates Wednesday morning that Washington had used cocaine during the first half of last season. Players said they support their manager and have vowed not to let the issue distract them from preparing for a season with high expectations.

Washington apologized to the team and met with a select leadership group of players that included Hamilton.

"I told him I loved him," Hamilton said. "Everybody makes mistakes. I respect him as a man, as a coach and as a man of high integrity. When he was speaking to us in here, you could tell he was broken and really felt remorse about it."

Hamilton, who was suspended for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy while with Tampa Bay in 2004, said his situation differs completely from what Washington did.

"I was addicted," Hamilton said. "I was trying to get after it, 'How much can I get? How much can I use?'" Hamilton said. "I didn't care about anybody else when I was going through things. Wash cares about people. He has a vested interest in how he comes off to him, being the manager and the man that he is. I think it was a weak moment, like he said. He made a mistake and he didn't try to hide it. He just said, 'I made a mistake and here it is.'"

Rangers third baseman Michael Young, a key leader in the clubhouse, said Washington's apology was "well received."

"Going forward, I don't see it being a big issue at all," Young said. "He made a mistake. He admitted it. He talked to the team about it. Guys were able to say their piece. He gave an open-door policy for guys to answer whatever question they wanted. You can't ask for much more than that. It won't be a distraction for the guys. We'll get ready for the season."

Following the team meeting, most of the players attended Washington's news conference near the Rangers' offices at Surprise Stadium.

"The guy is heartbroken," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's a tough time in his life and when we can give him support, we'll give him support. That was a time when he needed it. It just felt right."

Several players said they were stunned when Washington told them he had used cocaine.

"We were all shocked," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "We didn't know what it was about. Everyone's face told the whole tale. Someone as strong as him to make a mistake like that was a big shock. It's unfortunate but we have his back and we'll be here for him 100 percent."

Veteran pitcher Darren Oliver said he was still absorbing the information Wednesday afternoon, but that the team supports its manager.

"If you're on the outside looking in, it looks really bad if you don't know Washington as a person," Oliver said. "But we all know him. He's a good man. I haven't heard anything bad about him. You could tell it hurt him. He was sincere."

Even former players, such as Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, were shocked by the news.

"When you have a guy like that, a guy I look up to ... He made some mistakes," Byrd said.

"Nobody's perfect. But to make one mistake in baseball in all the years that he has been here, I think that's a pretty good career."

Many players were confident that this incident won't impact Washington's ability to manage the club or change their opinion of him.

"From our standpoint, Wash is going to be looked at the exact same way he was yesterday," Young said, "This doesn't change a thing. I understand why it's a story now. But it's not going to have anything to do with how we prepare for the season or how Wash manages or how we look at him as a manager. I look at him the exact same way as I did when he first got here."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com contributed to this story.