Angels News: Ron Washington Bringing Famed Drills To Halo Infield
Jun 4, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Angels shortstop Zach Neto (9) attempts to regain control of a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels manager Ron Washington brings with him nearly 30 years of Major League coaching experience. 2024 marks Washington’s 29th season as a coach — previous tenures with the Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves — and his ninth season as a manager, with eight years at the helm of the Texas Rangers. But it was him time in Atlanta that garnered him the most praise.

He was transformative for an eventual World Series champion in the Braves as the third base coach for seven seasons. The Braves had one of the best infields all of baseball toward the tail end of his tenure, and in that tiem he came up with what are now known as Washington Drills. These are infield drills that are so effective that Freddie Freeman brought them with him when he signed with the L.A. Dodgers in 2022.

Washington is now bringing those drills to an Angels infield that includes two young potential cornerstones in Zach Neto and Nolan Schanuel. He’s bringing a more refined version that involves ground work and minimal movement to ensure the ball is hitting the right part of the glove with consistency. He spoke about why his drills are so effective, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:

“In four minutes, you can get 97 ground balls and you’re not sweating,” Washington said. “You’re not breathing hard. But you took 97. If I go out there and hit you 97 ground balls in four minutes, see if you sweat or get exhausted. If you say you’re going to take 100 ground balls, 25 of them were probably proper. The other 75 were all kinds of ways. You weren’t in the proper technique. You weren’t doing things right. The way I do it, every time you pick up a ground ball, you are doing it correct. You are doing it correct.”

Neto and Brandon Drury both admitted that these kids of drills are relatively new to them — although Drury had done a version that a teammate taught him in a previous spot — but both saw the positives in what Washington brought over.

Part of being a great manager in MLB is the ability to change a culture, and at least in a small way, Washington appears to be doing that thus far.

Ron Washington impressed by Nolan Schanuel

Schanuel showed himself last year to have an incredible plate discipline from a rookie. He walked more than he struck out and had 30 hits in 29 career games. The Angels moved quickly to make him the first baseman of the future in Anaheim, parting ways with Jared Walsh and other big league first basemen in their organization.

And Washington, from that one play in Spring Training, sees everything he needs to know to like Schanuel and what he’ll bring to the Angels:

“He’s capable of doing that with consistency, and he might be able to do it with perfection,” Washington said. “Because of his bat-to-ball skill, I think that boy can pull the ball on the ground anytime he wants to.”

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