The Nationals still want a veteran starting pitcher, but don’t expect general manager Mike Rizzo to look hard for one on the free-agent market. In fact, the club is waiting for free-agent pitchers to come to them at the right price.
So don’t look for the Nationals to break the bank for pitchers such as right-hander John Smoltz or left-hander Jarrod Washburn.
“During the early part of the winter, we made sure we got things done,” Rizzo said. “I made sure we had a Major League veteran starter [Jason Marquis], Major League catcher [Ivan Rodriguez] and improved the bullpen [Matt Capps, Brian Bruney and Eddie Guardado]. We took care of that.
“I think during the second half of the offseason we are going to let a little bit of that come to us. We do think there is a surplus of people out there … that we are talking about. There is nobody … out there on the pitching market that is a difference maker.”
* Center fielder Nyjer Morgan acknowledged that he needs to improve his batting average against left-handed pitching. Last season, for example, the left-handed hitting Morgan hit .175 with a homer and 12 RBIs against southpaws.
“I’ll try to figure something out — if it’s a little adjustment,” Morgan said. “I’ll make something happen. Last year was probably my worst year of hitting lefties. Like I said, you got to take your lumps but you learn off your mistakes and you try to get better off your mistakes.”
* Right-hander Craig Stammen said he is willing to be a starter or reliever in 2010, but he is going into Spring Training believing that he will be a starter. Stammen said his right elbow is 100 percent after having bone spurs removed toward the end of the season.
* The Nationals displayed Ryan Zimmerman’s first Gold Glove at NatsFest. It was obvious that he was pleased to get the award.
“Defense is an important part of the game. It’s a part of the game that is overlooked,” he said. Everyone loves offense, home runs and everything. You have to be able to play defense and work hard for that, too. I take a lot of pride in that.”
* With Matt Capps signed to a one-year deal, the Nationals have to take someone off their 40-man roster. General manager Mike Rizzo said the team will make a decision in the next couple of days after Capps’ contract is approved by Major League Baseball.
* Rizzo said he is not finished when it comes to improving the Nationals. Rizzo is looking for starting pitching and to get better on defense. The Nationals finished 16th in the National League in ERA [5.00], while leading the Majors in errors with 143.
“We are never finished,” Rizzo said. “We feel the club still has a lot of deficiencies. We never forget the fact that we won only 59 games last year. I don’t want to go through that again – ever.
“We can never get enough talented players and you can never get enough pitching. We are still going to remain busy up until Spring Training, through Spring Training and through the season to improve the club for 2010 and beyond.”
* Unlike his years with the Pirates, Capps will be able to go to his hometown, Atlanta, more often to see his mother and brother. Seeing his family is important than ever since his father, Mike, passed away in October.
At his informal press conference, Capps talked about not having his father during the free agency process.
“I can’t tell you how much I missed him during this whole process,” Capps said. “It was tough for me. I talked to Dad two or three times a day for the last eight years since I left home. Dad would read everything online and would read every newspaper. He would call me and say, ‘They are saying this and you are doing this.’ I would say, ‘Hey, dad, it’s great. I don’t know anything.’ I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to pick up the phone and call him.”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman will have a pregame segment on WFED Federal News Radio starting April 5, when his team faces the Phillies at Nationals Park. Riggleman is the first Nationals manager to have such a segment.
Riggleman’s segment will be part of “Nationals On-Deck,” a 30 minute pre-game show which is hosted by Nationals play-by-play announcers Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler.
“We are really excited because in the last five years, we were not able to come to any agreement with Frank Robinson or Manny Acta,” said Jeff Wolinsky, who is the director of nationals sales and sports sales manager at WTOP Radio Network and WFED. “The reason this was able to happen with Jim is because he wanted to have an opportunity to reach out to the fans. This gives Jim a great opportunity to speak as clearly as possible to the fans on a daily basis.”
Slowes was ecstatic when he learned Riggleman will have a segment on a regular basis.
“We’ve wanted something like this since we began in 2005 and when I talked to Jim about it last season, he was very interested in the idea,” Slowes said. “We’re thrilled it’s coming to fruition, and fans will get to hear Jim whether it’s on the road or, of course, at Nationals Park.”
Riggleman wasn’t available for comment, but his agent, Burton Rocks, said his client wanted to connect to the fans.
“This was something Jim was quite passionate about,” Rocks said. “He wanted the fans to feel connected to the team on a daily basis.”
This statement is from Stan Kasten on behalf of the Nationals organization:
With the recent restructuring of the Washington Times in mind, I would like to–on behalf of the Nationals–thank the entire Times sports department for their fantastic coverage of the Nationals and baseball as a whole.
I would single out the individual and collective efforts of Mark Zuckerman, Ben Goessling and Thom Loverro, the Times’s primary baseball team. Their day-to-day professionalism and devoted coverage chronicled the Nationals’s early years in DC and set a foundation of journalistic excellence that Nationals fans have come to expect.
We wish Mark, Ben, Thom and everyone from the Times the very best going forward.