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As Ex-Angel, Washington Can Stop Chasing the A’s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Claudell Washington did not want to stop wearing an Angel uniform. He did not want to be traded.

But when he reluctantly shed the Angel uniform, he shed a burden with it.

Now he no longer has to concern himself with trying to catch the Oakland Athletics.

He leaves that to his former teammates. And now that he is no longer among them, he no longer speaks with much optimism.

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“It’s going to be a tough task for them,” Washington said after driving in two runs to help the New York Yankees to an 11-3 victory over the Angels six days after he was traded with Rich Monteleone for leadoff man Luis Polonia.

It’s early in the season, but already the Angels trail the World Series champions by 7 1/2 games after playing 24. It might have been 8 1/2, had not the A’s also lost Saturday.

“You have to give the guys a chance, give the team a chance,” Washington said. “As long as the guys don’t get too down, they can come back and still have a productive season. They might not be able to come back and catch them, but there’s money in second and third, too.”

The season’s not over.

Those are words the Angels often repeat, and they are certainly true. But Washington’s perspective is different now, and has the ring of a concession speech.

The Angels talk with respect of the confidence the A’s exude.

“Oakland is never worried about anybody,” Washington said. “They’ve got a great team.”

When an Angel talks about that aura, it is tempered with some claim of confidence in the face of it. It is different for a former Angel.

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“As long as (the A’s) stay healthy and stay focused, there’s nobody in the Western Division that can slow ‘em,” Washington said. “It might be different in the playoffs.”

These are the words of a man who has been jilted, one who has been traded away, and one who called Saturday’s victory over the Angels, “Revenge. Sweet revenge.”

But they are also educated words.

Washington did not play in the opening game of the series at Anaheim Stadium, sitting out for his first day since the trade last Sunday at the conclusion of a series between the teams in New York.

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He had started every game until Friday’s, when the Yankees faced a left-handed pitcher in Mark Langston, and Manager Bucky Dent held out Washington in favor of Dave Winfield, who bats right-handed.

The two appear to be platooning, though Winfield said it might not be precisely right to say he plays only against left-handers.

“They say platoon, but it really isn’t,” Winfield said. “I don’t play against most people.”

Washington has represented himself well in five games, going five for 17 and driving in three runs.

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Although Washington joined the Yankees right away, Polonia did not join the Angels until Wednesday, and has yet to start in an Angel victory, taking part in the past three defeats.

Washington is on a team that is struggling, too, but he has won two in a row against his former teammates.

It looked as if he had disappointed himself early in the game, when his one-hop throw to the plate in the second inning didn’t prevent Dante Bichette from scoring on Jack Howell’s sacrifice fly. Washington’s throw was strong, but catcher Bob Geren couldn’t control the ball after the bounce.

That gave the Angels a 1-0 lead, their only lead of the game.

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Washington did his part for the offense, driving in a run with a double to right in the fourth and another with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

And after today’s game, he gets to leave behind Anaheim Stadium and the pursuit of the Athletics.

“As far as them catching Oakland, I really don’t see them making up 10 games on a team like Oakland.”


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