Results tagged ‘ Mike Rizzo ’
A few hours after Class A Potomac canceled its doubleheader against Kinston, general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement Thursday night about the field conditions at Pfitzner Stadium in Virginia.
“The Washington Nationals would never consider asking our players, or those of our opponents, to play on a field that we believe represents a safety threat,” Rizzo said. “The Nationals have repeatedly requested that dangerous field conditions be addressed under the supervision of Major League Baseball.
“Recent unsupervised work has resulted in a field that is even more dangerous. We regret any inconvenience this may cause to fans of the Potomac Nationals, but we know they join us in wanting only the best for our players.”
Potomac’s field has been an issue at times this season, prompting the club to rip up the grass in right field and add a new layer of fresh sod last week. Wednesday and Thurday’s rainout did little to help the new turf.
Danny Wild of MLB.com contributed to this report.
General manager Mike Rizzo is expected to name a new skipper for the rest of the season no later than Monday.
It’s only speculation, but one has to assume that third-base coach Bo Porter and bench coach John McLaren are candidates.
Porter interviewed for the job after the 2009 season, but Jim Riggleman ended up being named the permanent manager. Porter is considered one of the reasons Washington has improved its defense this season.
McLaren, who is currently the interim skipper, managed the Mariners in 2007 and ’08. The team was 66-88 under his leadership. As a member of the Nationals, McLaren would take over the managerial duties once Riggleman was ejected from a game.
The Nationals could also turn to Randy Knorr, who has moved up the ladder in the Nationals’ Minor League system. He managed Class A Potomac and guided them to the 2008 Carolina League Mills Cup.
Last year, Knorr guided Double-A Harrisburg to the Wild Card Western Division Championship. Knorr is currently managing Triple-A Syracuse.
Knorr, a Minor League manager dating back to 2005, also has the distinction of managing Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen and Stephen Strasburg before they reached the big leagues.
Rizzo could turn to Bobby Valentine, who was a finalist before Riggleman was named permanent manager.
Valentine has .510 winning percentage (1,117-1,072) in 15 seasons while managing the Mets and Rangers. His best year was in 2000, when he guided the Mets to the World Series. Valentine also managed in Japan, guiding Chiba Lotte to the 2005 Japan Series title.
Before watching his team defeat Orioles, 8-4, and improve their record to 34-36 on Friday night, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke to MLB.com about the team’s recent success and plans for the future.
MLB.com: How do you think the Nationals are doing so far?
Mike Rizzo: I think we are playing good, solid baseball. I think we accomplished a lot of things. We were a poor defensive team the last couple of years. I think we drastically improved our team defensively. Our speed and athleticism has drastically improved. We were toward the bottom of the league in stolen bases and going from first to third. We are now doing all of those things.
Our starting pitching has been good It’s coming along really nicely. I think that coincides with the improved defense. Our bullpen has been solid. We feel that we are on the right track, we are going the right way.
Our hitting has been down this year and it has cost us a lot of ballgames, but when you are without Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, your three and five hitters for most of the season, it’s really hard to have a productive lineup. We are hoping that when Zim is [back to being the player of old], we hope to see more consistent at-bats and score more runs.
MLB.com: Before Zimmerman came back, the team was off to a slow start offensively. Why didn’t you panic and try to acquire a hitter via trade?
Rizzo: To panic shows a lack of confidence in the rest of the players. It would have been easy not to give Laynce Nix and Michael Morse a chance to perform or make a knee-jerk trade and give up a lot of young players for instant gratification. But we have a vision for not only this year, but down the road. That’s the biggest reason.
We have confidence in our entire roster. Coming into the season, we felt that we had as good a bench as anybody around with Nix, Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora. Unfortunately, those guys couldn’t be bench players. They had to be everyday players for us. What it did was, it gave opportunities. If you remember, when Zim went down, I said, “We are not looking at losing one of our star players. We are looking at it as an opportunity for somebody to step up. I think Morse and Nix have done that. We are reaping the benefits of it. Now that Zim is back, we feel comfortable.
MLB.com: Entering Friday’s action, the Nationals are 5 ½ games behind the Braves in the Wild Card race. Do you think the Nationals can compete for a playoff spot?
Rizzo: We feel we can compete with any team in baseball We are not worried about the Wild Card or how many games back in the standings right now. We are worried about tonight’s game against the Orioles. Our first order of business is to play good consistent baseball. We have to get a rhythm offensively, stay consistent defensively and pitch well. We think the standings will take care of themselves.
MLB.com: What is your biggest need right now?
Rizzo: Like any ballclub that we talk to, we are always looking to improve our starting pitching. We want front of the rotation guys. We are always looking to do that. We are always looking to improve ourselves with two-way players — offensively and defensively. We feel that is going to be our strength. That’s what we are always looking to acquire.
MLB.com: What about the leadoff position. Do you see Jayson Werth as a leadoff hitter long term?
Rizzo: I see Jayson as a middle of the order hitter. We would like someone within the ballclub or organization to step up and be that guy. If we can’t find that guy within the organization, we will look elsewhere.
MLB.com: What is the biggest disappointment you have this season?
Rizzo: The biggest disappointed is that we had some key injuries like every other team. When you lose players like Zimmerman, LaRoche and a potential No. 1 starter [Stephen Strasburg], those are things that effect your ballclub. I think that has been the most disappointment that we had.
MLB.com: What about the most exciting thing you have seen so far?
Rizzo: It is watching the development of these young players. The development of Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond has been unbelievable. The emergence of Jordan Zimmermann has been great to see.
MLB.com: The way the Nationals have been playing lately, are they buyers or sellers?
Rizzo: We are both buyers and sellers. We always have been, always will be. If we have a chance to acquire a player that is going to help us in 2011 and beyond, we are not going to shy away from that. If there is a trade to be made that will help us down the road, we will trade a player away to get a piece for the future. But we are not in sell mode. There are a lot of games to play, a lot of games to win. We are here to win games.
MLB.com: You pointed out recently that the Nationals had a great draft. How are you doing in terms of signing those players?
Rizzo: I think we are doing quite well. After negotiating with them, we have about 15 players with contracts pending. We are in communication with our upper picks. We feel that optimistic to get those guys signed. If we do, we feel we have the best draft in baseball.
MLB.com: You announced at Citi Field that outfielder Bryce Harper will not be in the big leagues this year. How is he doing in your mind at Class A Hagerstown?
Rizzo: He is a terrific player. His developmental curve is going quite well. He starting to get acclimated to the everydayness of professional baseball. He loves playing every day. His skills are going to take care of themselves. He is learning to play the outfield. He is much more fundamentally sound on the aspects of playing the outfield – angles, throws and those type of things. His bat has been great.
MLB.com: Once you are satisfied by what you have seen, can you say where Harper will go next?
Rizzo: I cannot say that. I will say that we are develop him at a pace that most benefits him in the long term. He is a special player. He will be developed at a rate that allows him to be an impactful guy.
MLB.com: How has manager Jim Riggleman done so far?
Rizzo: Jim has been great. He has the players playing hard for 27 outs each and every night — even when we had some down times. Through the good and the bad, he grinds it out every day and gives a good days’ work.
MLB.com: He has an option left on his contract. Would you want him back for next year if things continue to go well?
Rizzo: The option year is communicated between Jim and I. I’m with Jim every day. We continually talk about a lot of different things. We are going to let the season play on. We will address it when it needs to be addressed. Right now, it’s all about baseball, it all about winning games and about playing the Baltimore Orioles.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
@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.
The Nationals had a deal in place to acquire right-hander Zack Greinke, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com. 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 MLB.com’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.
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.