Results tagged ‘ Mike Rizzo ’

Nationals looking into remarks made by Houchins

On Wednesday, the last day of the First-Year Player Draft, Nationals scouting director Kris Kline was talking about Zach Houchins’ abilities as a hitter. Houchins, a shortstop from North Carolina, was the team’s 15th round pick. He already has made a commitment to East Carolina University.

On Thursday, however, local reporters were trying to get the team’s reaction to racial remarks made by Houchins on his Twitter account, which was deleted later that night.

“We’re aware of, and are investigating, the statements,” general manager Mike Rizzo said through a team spokesman.

Nats’ Eckstein remains silent with media

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has instructed hitting coach Rick Eckstein not to talk to the media.

In the last week, members of the Washington media have attempted to talk to Eckstein about the team’s problems at the plate, but they have been turned down. Entering Friday’s action, the team is hitting .229, which ranks 29th in the Major Leagues.

According to people with knowledge of the situation, the reason for Eckstein’s silence is because Rizzo doesn’t want Eckstein to blame himself for the problems at the plate. Rizzo is one of Eckstein’s biggest supporters.

Rizzo also believes members of the media would not talk to Eckstein if the team was hitting well at the plate. Instead, they would talk only to the players.

Eckstein is considered one of the hardest working coaches in baseball. In fact, outfielder Jayson Werth said recently, “Ecky sleeps and drinks baseball.”

Before going on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury, first baseman Adam LaRoche said the team’s hitting woes were not Eckstein’s fault.

“It’s not easy for him at all. It might be harder on him than it is an individual hitter,” LaRoche said. “The entire team feels responsible. He has done everything he could possibility do to get guys on track. He spends more time watching video. He goes in the batter’s box to just to mimic player’s swings just to get a feeling in the batter’s box.”

It’s not known how long Eckstein will remain silent. Calls to Rizzo were not returned and Eckstein was not available for comment.

Eckstein has been Washington’s hitting coach since 2009. That year, Washington was tied for sixth in the National League with a .258 batting average.

Last year, the Nationals were tied for ninth in the NL with a .250 batting average.

LaRoche, Nix support Nats’ Eckstein

Entering Friday’s action against the Orioles, the Nationals have a .223 batting average, the worst in the Major Leagues.

After Washington’s 1-0 loss to the Mets on Thursday afternoon, general manager Mike Rizzo ordered hitting coach Rick Eckstein not to talk to the media to help explain what’s going wrong with the offense. Rizzo declined to say why he made directive.

But first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Laynce Nix said that Eckstein is not to blame for the season-long slump.

“It’s not easy for him at all. It might be harder on him than it is an individual hitter,” said LaRoche, who is hitting .172 for the season. “The entire team feels responsible. He has done everything he could possibility do to get guys on track. He spends more time watching video. He goes in the batter’s box to just to mimic player’s swings just to get a feeling in the batter’s box.”

Nix, who is the only position player who is hitting over .300 for the Nationals, said Eckstein is a positive person when he teaches the art of hitting.

“We are having a hard time putting hits together, getting guys on base or doing a lot of things right,” Nix said. “It’s pretty simple: We have to make our own breaks and not depend on luck. We feel for Eck and he feels a lot of heat, but we believe in him and he believes in us. Everybody is working hard. We will be out of this [slump] soon.”

Nats agree to terms with 16 international free agents

The Nationals have agreed to terms on professional contracts with 16 international free agents, highlighted by catcher Raudy Read and outfielder Randy Novas.
Read, who was  signed out of the Dominican Republic, is considered a player with great instincts behind the plate. The 17-year-old right-handed hitter has demonstrated a powerful bat with plate discipline.

The right-handed hitting Novas, who is also from the Dominican Republic, has great range in the outfield and has consistently demonstrated power to all fields.  
The Nationals have also signed: left-handed pitchers Joel Barrientos (17, Dominican Republic), Brian Escolastico (18, Dominican Republic) and Hector Silvestre (18, Dominican Republic); right-handed pitchers Anderson Martinez (18, Venezuela), Gilberto Mendez (18, Dominican Republic) and Felix Moscat (20, Dominican Republic); catchers Pedro Severino (17, Dominican Republic) and Jorge Tillero (17, Venezuela); first baseman Arialdi Peguero (18, Dominican Republic); shortstop Yewri Guillen (18, Dominican Republic); third baseman Diomedes Eusebio (18, Dominican Republic); and outfielders Juan de los Santos (17, Venezuela), Wilman Rodriguez (19, Dominican Republic) and Dioncio Rosario (17, Dominican Republic).

Twitter Poll: Did Nats have successful offseason?

On Monday afternoon, I asked my Twitter followers this question: Did the Nats have a successful offseason? Yes or No? Why? A lot of the followers responded to this question and the results were mixed. Here is what they had to say. 

@JHell3: Yes. They no longer have the cheapskate image.

@Natss9: Overall, I like what they did. The Nats’ defense is better and the pitchers in the rotation are MLB pitchers. General manager Mike Rizzo tried his best!

@nationalsreview: Defense and starting pitcher are better. The offense is similar, plus Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa are a year older so they should improve.

@BDadant: I feel they’re one pitcher and one proven bat short. I hope Nyjer Morgan proves me wrong and the current pitching staff does as well.

@thebrowncoat: They tried, but, ultimately, they didn’t quite get there. Lack of a No. 1 starter leaves the rotation with a lot of question marks.

@ZachMyles:  No, because they got worse offensively and the only “front-line starter” they were able to get was Rick Ankiel and he doesn’t pitch anymore.

@WillFacc: Yes. Improved defense, athleticism, long and short relief, kept key youngsters and made leaps by paying a high profile player.

@eenyy820: Even though nobody thinks they can compete with the Phillies, signing Jayson Werth proves they’re committed to building a winner.

@pbsenerchia: The Nats are an improved team, stuck to their principles, didn’t panic, but made moves, got people talking. It will pay off with next year’s free-agent/trade class.

@therealarosen: I’d give them a 6. The Nationals picked up a few above-average position players and a good pitcher. Didn’t land an ace though. The pitching is still shaky.

@CraigMac: The team is better than it was in September. Pitching is an issue with just about every team. Lineup, bench and bullpen are strong.

@CDublin: No. I was hoping for a solid No. 1 pitcher.

@Fazeshiftalec: The Nats’ offseason was a success. They made a splash with Werth and will have a great rotation battle. They will finish third in the East.

@ghue: Absolutely not.

@SodaPop6548: Not really, while we got a few good players, we lost quite a few.

@BigDaddyDemps: The Nationals didn’t get a frontline starting pitcher, were embarrassed by Zack Greinke while overspending for Werth. However, they did good job acquiring Adam LaRoche and trading Josh Willingham. 

@IBALLZACH: I suppose so. They improved their defense, but the main goal of improving the rotation wasn’t reached.

@DArkMEATHOOK: They didn’t re-sign Adam Dunn and didn’t get a top-line starting pitcher. However, that doesn’t mean the Nationals will not have a successful season. It was considered a successful offseason when the Redskins signed Brandon Lloyd, Adam Archuletta and Antwawn Randle El and hired Al Saunders as coach. Look how well that ended.

@DinoFTW: It depends. Pitching wise — no. We are relying on our “young” pitchers. We needed a big-time pitcher. But I also think we picked up some nice pieces from a position standpoint. Our outfielders will be more reliable and our first baseman is a huge upgrade.

@natsnq: In terms of quantity, yes, but the quality of their pick-ups don’t seem to match what was promised.

@jamiemac3: Yes

@Dapple_Juice: They improved the team without depleting the farm system or giving up Desmond and Espinosa

@BDadant: The Nats are you concentrating a lot on pitching. I feel unless Morgan produces, we are going to need another bat.

@HendoDC: No. Too many missed chances. It hurt not to pick up a starting pitcher of the caliber of Jorge De La Rosa or Cliff Lee. Also, postponing the fanfest was understandable but wrong.

@Tbridge: Yes and No. Some good signings, but too many swings and misses. I’ll also second @HendoDC in saying the postponement of Fanfest was not good.

@kevin_reiss: Yes, if you judge by the process. No, if you judge by the outcome.

@Evolution33: They shored up the defense without taking too much of an offensive hit, and the starting pitching should be marginally better.

@gopherballs: No. They failed to address the biggest concern — starting pitching — and were forced to make “frantic” moves late in the offseason.

@jpminter: They upgraded at every “hole” in their lineup. They probably spent a little too much money, but I’m OK with that.

@szul: Yes. They became much more athletic and defense-oriented. Improvements by the middle infielder are key now.

@md_schmidt: Made incremental-plus progress in offense and pitching. Improved defense through subtraction.

Greinke rejects deal to Nationals

The Nationals had a deal in place to acquire right-hander Zack Greinke, a baseball source confirmed to However, Greinke used his no-trade clause and rejected the deal.  

Instead, the Royals traded Greinke to the Brewers for prospects. Published reports indicated that Greinke will accept the deal to Milwaukee. An official announcement is expected Monday. 

No reason was given as to why Greinke turned down the deal to Washington, but he made it clear this past season that he would like to play for a team that won on a consistent basis. The Nationals have yet to finish with a record over .500 since relocating to Washington.

“My only motivation now is winning. … When we’re 20 games out, it’s hard to get excited to come to the park,” Greinke told’s Dick Kaegel in September.

It’s not known who the Royals would have acquired if Greinke accepted the deal to Washington. Published reports indicate that reliever Drew Stroren, infielder Danny Espinosa and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann may have been part of this deal. 
The Nationals have been looking for an ace pitcher this offseason, but have come up empty handed — so far. Last Sunday, it was learned that the Nationals were out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Lee ended up signing a five-deal with the Phillies.

However, the Nationals are still in the mix to acquire Carl Pavano and Brandon Webb. They could also try to trade for Rays right-hander Matt Garza, but would have to give up a lot in return. The Rays are looking for high-level prospects and bullpen help.  
General Mike Rizzo, who was not available for comment, said this past season that he wanted to acquire starting pitching and put players in their proper places in the rotation. For example, the Nationals don’t consider John Lannan an ace pitcher. They consider him a No 3. or 4 starter on a good team.       

Nats tender contracts to five, agree to terms with two others

Entering Thursday, the Nationals had 10 players who were eligible for salary arbitration. Five of them — pitchers Sean Burnett, John Lannan and Doug Slaten and outfielders Michael Morse, and Josh Willingham — were tendered contracts, while catcher Jesus Flores and infielder Alberto Gonzalez agreed to terms on new deals. However, catcher Wil Nieves and right-handers Joel Peralta and Chien-Ming Wang became free agents.

Letting Nieves and Wang walk was not a surprise, for the Nationals are loaded with catchers, which made Nieves expendable, and Wang pitched in 24 games in the past three seasons.

However, letting Peralta get away was a surprise. Peralta had the best season of his career, posting a 2.02 ERA in 39 games. He allowed one run in his final 15 innings. General manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t available for comment.

Terms were not disclosed on Gonzalez and Flores. Gonzalez  is a valuable player off the bench, but his attitude must change when it comes to playing time. He was often upset when taken out of games.

Flores enters the 2011 season as the No. 3 catcher. It didn’t help that he missed most of the past two years because of a right shoulder injury. The Nationals haven’t ruled out Flores starting next season in the Minor Leagues.

Burnett, Lannan, Morse, Slaten and Willingham will have a hearing sometime in February unless they agree to terms with the club.

Of the five players, Willingham appears to the one person who could be traded before the 2011 season gets underway. Willingham is a free agent after the ’11 season and it is believed the Nationals want young players in return for the right-handed hitting slugger.

Kasten happy Rizzo received extension

Former Nationals president Stan Kasten was happy to learn that the club promoted general manager Mike Rizzo to executive vice president of baseball operations and gave him a five-year extension. 

The Nationals started talking to Rizzo about an extension after Kasten resigned from his role as president of the club.

When reached by phone, Kasten said the Nationals giving Rizzo the extension is an important demonstration of stability for the franchise.

“It’s something every successful franchise needs,” Kasten said via telephone. “It a great step for the franchise and also a great indication to the fans about how serious the organization is about building long-term success.” 

It was Kasten who lured Rizzo away from the D-Backs in 2006 to become the Nationals’ director of scouting. For the next two-plus seasons, Kasten groomed Rizzo for his future role.

Rizzo would be named interim GM in March of 2009 and received full-time status a few months later.         
“Mike has a real gift for examining players and being able to tell which players are going to be successful and the ones who are not. It’s not a perfect science, obviously,” Kasten said.  “It was very clear he wanted to be a GM. He was preparing for it while he was a scouting director — learning everything he could.

“He asked good questions to the best people in the business, With addition to having all the skills to being a scout, he also did other things that he could to become a GM.”

Since becoming the GM, the Nationals are loaded with young pitchers — including 2009 No. 1 overall Draft pick Stephen Strasburg, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery — who are expected to make an impact in the big leagues very soon.

The team also has its share of sluggers in the system including Bryce Harper who is expected to be in the big leagues in two years.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen, I think, all of the good things that Mike has been able to do. And I think you could look forward to even more of that now and going forward,” Kasten said.            

Solis close to signing with Nats

It looks like a deal is close to getting done between the Nationals and left-hander Sammy Solis, the team’s second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, according to a baseball source.

The Nats have until Monday at midnight to get a deal done. 

The source said the talks between the two parties are amicable, and the Nationals are doing everything they can to get a deal done before the deadline.

Nationals president Stan Kasten, general manager Mike Rizzo and Solis’ advisor Nez Balelo were not available for comment.

The 6-foot-5, 228-pound left-hander came back after missing nearly all of the 2009 season with a herniated disc in his back.

Solis suffered the injury while lifting weights two years ago, and it limited him to two games that year. Opting against surgery, he spent an entire summer rehabbing and getting back in shape at “Athletes Performance” in Arizona.

All of the hard work he did in getting back from that injury eventually paid off. Solis went 9-2 with a 3.42 ERA for the University of San Diego this season. He struck out 92 batters and walking 29 in 92 innings.

“I’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work, and to have it finally pay off, especially with the Nationals, it’s really exciting,” Solis said back in June. “The Nationals are young and up and coming. I know that they have good people in there, move guys up quick and are going to treat me right.”

Associate reporter Greg Rosenstein contributed to this report.

Dunn placed on waivers

The Nationals have placed first baseman Adam Dunn on waivers Tuesday, according to a source outside of the Nationals organization.

A player exposed to waivers can be claimed by any team, and if there are multiple claims, the player would be offered to the team with the worst record. At that point, a team has 48 hours to either try to work out a trade with the claiming club or remove the player from waivers. A player can only be pulled back from waivers once, but if he clears waivers either the first or second time through, a team can attempt to trade him to any club. 

“There is always a possibility [we could make a trade before that date],” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said about the Aug. 31 deadline. “We are always looking to do our jobs and improve the ballclub. When contenders are interested in your players, it means you have playoff-caliber players on your team that people want.”

The big unknown is if Dunn will sign an extension before Aug. 31. Dunn hopes so, but his price may be too high. He is asking for a four-year deal, but he is willing to listen to a three-year offer.

Entering Tuesday’s action against the Diamondbacks, Dunn is hitting .276 with 26 home runs and 67 RBIs for Washington.



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