September 2009

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Riggleman not sure he will be back with Nats

Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman is not sure if he will back with the Nationals in 2010, but there is no denying the team had more fire on the field after he took over on July 13.

Entering Thursday action, the Nationals are 28-42 after the All-Star Break. General manager Mike Rizzo said Riggleman is a legitimate candidate for the permanent job.  

“I think Riggleman really did a good job handling the ballclub after the All-Star break,” Rizzo said. “I think he put us on pace to really focus and bare down on the fundamentals of the game — to play cleaner and more efficient ballgames. He had the players playing at a high level. I think he has done the best job he could with the ability level that he has.”

Rizzo did not say when he will make his decision about a permanent manager, but the search will not be as intensive compared to when the Nationals were looking for a manager after they dismissed Frank Robinson after the 2006 season.

“This is the evaluating time of the year. We are all being evaluated, Jim including. Jim has done a great job. It’s going to be an intense offseason and a busy one,” Rizzo said. “The ultimate goal is to make us a better ball club.”

Riggleman, who was an interim manager of the Mariners last year, has not had an formal interview with Washington, pointing out that he is being judged on the field.

“After going through it last year, I don’t make any assumptions. I know that I love to manage,” Riggleman said. “As I said before, the greatest thing to do in baseball is to play. You can’t play anymore. The next thing that really excite you is to manage. I love to manage, period.”

Unlike last offseason, Riggleman hasn’t made plans to get a  job with another team in case he doesn’t become the manager next year. Last winter, Riggleman became the bench coach of the Nationals even though he was a managerial candidate for the Mariners.

Tidbits from Nationals Park

Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman has not decided who will pitch against the Braves on Saturday afternoon. He cannot go with left-hander Ross Detwiler because the latter has been shut down for the rest of the season because he has reached his innings limit.

Riggleman said right-handers Marco Estrada or Zack Segovia could get the start, but the skipper hasn’t ruled out using a bullpen-by-committee in the game.

Outfielder/infielder Mike Morse has played his fourth position in as many days. He played third base on Saturday and started at first base, right field and left field the next three days respectively.

Stammen willing to be reliever for Nationals

Nationals right-hander Craig Stammen will be one of the starters competing for a spot in the rotation next year, but the team has not ruled out putting Stammen in the bullpen.

What role Stammen would have in the bullpen is not known. He would be considered an upgrade if he were in the bullpen. Stammen has experience out of the bullpen, making 20 relief appearances during his Minor League career. 

“Whatever they want me to do, I will do,” Stammen said. “I want to go into Spring Training and show them what I can do. They will decide what they want from there. I’ve also proven that I can get guys out and I can get guys out as a reliever.”

Stammen played all season with bone spurs in his right elbow, but he didn’t shut it down until after Aug. 29.  He had arthroscopic surgery to remove the spurs a little over a week later.

Stammen, who will be staying in the DC area after the season to rehab the elbow, said he is ahead of schedule and hopes to start throwing a baseball in four weeks.

In 2009, Stammen made 19 starts, going 4-7 with a 5.11 ERA. He wonders what kind of year he would have had if he didn’t have the bone spurs in the elbow.

“Just the way I was going in every start wasn’t how I was accustomed to — compared to how I felt last year,” Stammen said. “I’m going to feel a lot better than I did last year. Throughout the week, I’ll be working on things to get better on the mound rather than just be out there to pitch. I’m optimistic to find out why happens next year.” 

Nationals, Braves to play Saturday afternoon

The Saturday game between the Nationals and Braves, scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET on the Mid-Atlantic Network, has been changed to 4:10 p.m. ET on FOX, according to a Nationals spokesman. 

Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman has not decided who will pitch in the game. Left-hander Ross Detwiler was scheduled to pitch that day, but he has been shut down for the season because he has reached his innings limit.   


Guzman not sure he will play second base

Shortstop Cristian Guzman is still not sure if he wants to play second base in 2010. He has talked to agent, Stanley King, about the situation, but will not talk about his plans until after the season. 

“Right now, I don’t know yet,” Guzman said on Monday.

It was learned on Sept. 10 that general manager Mike Rizzo and interim manager Jim Riggleman had a private meeting with Guzman and asked him to switch to second base for the 2010 season.

Guzman, who did not give Rizzo and Riggleman an answer, was in shock and told them he never played second base in his life. The only other position Guzman has played other than shortstop was in the 2008 All-Star Game when he played third base for the National League team.

The Nationals feel that Guzman will prolong his career if he makes the switch and no longer has the range to play the shortstop.   

If Guzman agrees to the switch, that means the Nationals most likely will look for a shortstop during the offseason. The Nationals are debating if Ian Desmond can get the job done at short. There is a positive feeling that he can.     

Guzman may not have a choice but switch to second because he is expected to have an MRI after the season. He has a ailing right shoulder, which has bothered him for a month. Guzman said the shoulder grew worse when he twice threw to home plate against the Dodgers last Thursday.

Guzman will not the play shortstop for the rest of the season and is regulated to pinch-hitting duties.

“I kept playing and I threw to home plate against the Dodgers and my arm stretched a little bit and I felt it. I had to stop because I knew [something was wrong with the shoulder],” Guzman said. “I went to the doctor and I knew.”

Guzman, Burnett still ailing

Cristian Guzman most likely will not play shortstop the rest of the year because of a tender right shoulder. He most likely will come off the bench. Riggleman recently said that Guzman has been playing with the bad shoulder for at least a month. 

This is not the first time Guzman has had shoulder problems. He missed the entire 2006 season because of a tear inside the shoulder, an injury many believe surfaced when he was a member of the Twins.

Left-hander Sean Burnett most likely is out for the season. He still has the left thumb contusion suffered last month against the Brewers.

Burnett hurt the thumb in the seventh inning on Aug. 23 trying to field a groundball hit by Milwaukee’s Felipe Lopez.

Burnett, who never went on the DL because of the injury, believes rest will make it better.

“It’s a lingering problem and  it hasn’t gotten any better since I got hit ,” Burnett said recently. “It wasn’t that hard of a hit ball. It’s just something that didn’t get any better. At times it has gotten worse. It just hasn’t come along like I thought it would, but I’ve been going out there as much as possible.”   

Kasten sees bright future for Nats

Nationals team president Stan Kasten acknowledged recently he is disappointed in the team’s record, but feels good times are ahead for the franchise.

After the season, the Nationals are expected to know which players on the current roster will stay for the long term and determine who they would like to add this offseason. Kasten declined to name the players the Nationals have interest in, but it’s not a secret the team needs to improve the pitching staff — starting and relieving — its defense and tweak the offense.

“I’m not happy about the season and it signifies a horrible year on the field, but it has not been a horrible year in terms of progress toward our goal,” Kasten said. “It has been an important year in identifying the pieces we have as part of the long-term solution. We have come long way this year. We know a lot more about where we are and what we need than [we did earlier in the season].”

The Nationals have also stockpiled arms in the Minor Leagues, something Kasten promised back in 2006, and above-average position players — catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Michael Burgess — who could be in the Major Leagues in two years.

“I hear people talk about our Minor Leagues all the time, but what they don’t understand is our depth,” Kasten said. “They make a mistake when they say we don’t have any position players. All we have is pitching. Of course, they are wrong.

“In the Arizona Fall League, we will show some of the position players that we have. To say all we have is pitching  — oh, my goodness. That is a huge thing. Clubs would kill to have the wealth of pitching that we have.”

Stephen Strasburg to pitch in October

The wait is almost over. Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, will pitch in two Instructional League games next month.

His first outing will be against the Tigers on Oct. 5 in Viera Fla., and then he will go on the mound five-days later against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla. In both starts, Strasburg will be on a pitch count. It’s not known how many pitches he will throw.  

General manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten were not available for comment.    

After the two outings, Strasburg will then head to Phoenix to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Strasburg, 21, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this season at San Diego State University en route to being named the Golden Spikes Award winner. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings. 

Kasten, Cox had great years together in Atlanta

Braves manager Bobby Cox, one of the best skippers in baseball history, announced Wednesday, he will retire after the 2010 season and then do consulting work for the organization.

Two days later, Nationals president Stan Kasten had a lot of good things to say about Cox, and why not? The two worked together for more than 15 years in Atlanta.

“What do you say about a Hall of Famer? He is a fantastic human being and fantastic leader of men,” Kasten said. “He has a great understanding of the game of baseball, and how to lead people than anybody I have ever been around. It’s a pleasure to know him and was a pleasure to work with him.”

Cox was the general manager when the Braves named Kasten the president in 1987. The one deal Cox made for the future that year was trading right-hander Doyle Alexander  to the Tigers for a prospect named John Smoltz. Two-hundred tens wins, 154 saves and a Cy Young award later, Smoltz made the deal one sided in favor of the Braves.

“At our state where we were, we made the big leap and spent that much [money] on a player that wanted to play for us, but down the stretch, we felt we might be able to get something good for him. I didn’t know we would get a Hall of Famer and a Cy Young award winner for Doyle Alexander,” Kasten said. “That was a good deal that Bobby made — signing Doyle and trading for John.

Three years later, Cox began his second stint as manager of the Braves and guided them to 15 straight division titles, five pennants and one World Series title.