Friday, December 11, 2009

Mike Rizzo Side Session Concerning Pudge Rodriguez

Following the official press conference and the informal meeting with Pudge Rodriguez this afternoon, Our Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo concluded the days events with the assembled media with a side session of his own. Here is that transcript.

Question: From the way he (Pudge Rodriguez) talks, he sounds like a guy that expects to play every day?

Mike: “Would you expect anything different? He is a 14-time All-Star. He is a very prideful guy and thinks his skills are at the finest. And he might be right, you never know. Like I said at the beginning, he is going to be a significant contributor to the ball club. If that means 70 or 80 games, or as many as 80, 90 or 100 games, those are questions that will be answered throughout the course of the season. The best problem I will have all season is who are these two hot catchers and how are we going to play them on a daily basis.”

Question: If you break his numbers down last year, he had a couple of really good months that were on par with his normal seasonal averages. But he had a couple of months that were not very good. Do you attribute that to wearing down, or having an injury at some point? Or, was it just one of those things?

Mike: “No, I contribute it to him playing 121 games last year with two ball clubs. Like I said when we made the acquisition, his performance will be greatly enhanced with more rest and less playing time. That is why I kind of shot for that 75-85, maybe 90 game window. And I think we get peak performance out of a terrific player that is in great shape.”

Question: Have you talked with Jesus Flores about this deal and moving forward?

Mike: “I have talked with Jesus. Jim Riggleman has spoken to him and Scott Boras (his agent) has spoken to him. So, he is onboard. He is excited about it. This is going to be not only a teammate, but also a guy who is a legend in Jesus Flores’ mind. This is a guy he has looked up to his whole career and is one of his favorites.”

Question: You have said, in a perfect world, this gives Jesus as much time as he needs to make sure he is 100%. But how concerned are you guys as an organization this is going to take a little bit more time than just say the start of spring training or the beginning of the season?

Mike: “I can only go by what the medical people tell me. They say he should be 100% and ready to participate in spring training. Now, we take them at their word, but we all know that specifically shoulders are very difficult to predict. And the addition of Pudge Rodriguez was not as mentor, or not as an insurance plan. This is a very capable, productive, Major League player who still throws out a lot of runners--who can still handle the bat great. And brings us so many intangibles on and off the field that that was the reason we identified this guy from the beginning—and were so aggressive to go out and get him.”

Question: “Organizationally, you have a lot of catching depth in the lower minor leagues. Upper minor leagues you are still looking at Jhonathan Solano as being your number three catcher. Are you further going to address the catching position in the upper minor leagues?

Mike: “We have three capable catchers on the Major League level (including Wil Nieves). We have (Jaime) Burke on the AAA level and we have (Derek) Norris—who is an up and coming and potential significant contributor for us in the future. It is also no coincidence that Ivan is signed to a two-year contract. And we believe Norris is two years away from contributing in the Major Leagues. So, the time table works for us. The personality of the player worked for us and that is why he (Rodriguez) was so appealing to us.”

Question: So Norris will probably start at AA then?

Mike: “I am not sure where he is going to start yet.”

Question: How much can you talk about his improvement in hitting? How much do you think he will improve this pitching staff?

Mike: “He is the ultimate preparation guy. He is a professional. He always states what he gives you offensively is secondary. His most important feature to any ball club is—in his own words—how he handles the pitching staff and the game calling skills that he has. Of course, he is a shut down running game type of guy. Like we said, he was the 4th best catcher in as far as base stealing percentage. He is quick as a cat back there. He is as good of a ball blocker as I have ever seen. And you look at the guy—he has 5% body fat. A guy that is in terrific condition and he has got the attitude that he wants to contribute. The one thing—I don’t know if you noticed—but I noticed that he said it was all about winning—10 times. That is the attitude that we want to have with all the players we acquire. The name on the front (of the jersey) more (important) than the name on the back—and a winning attitude.”

Question: You have a couple of decisions you have to make in the next 24-hours. What is the latest report you have on Scott Olsen?

Mike: “Scott Olsen has completed his rehabilitation and now he is preparing for spring training. And that is a major milestone for him. He is no longer rehabilitating an injury. He is preparing for next year’s spring training.”

Question: How much does that development affect how you have to make that decision?

Mike: “It is a piece to the puzzle. The more information we get, the better decisions we can make.”

Question: How about the medical report of Roger Bernadina? Are you confident he can fully recover from his broken ankle?

Mike: “He played winter ball and was moving around well. And that was the only part of his game we were concerned about. With the ankle break and him being a speed player, that always comes into question. If a speed player loses his speed, that is not good for the player. But he’s moving well. He is running well. We evaluated him in winter league and he passed that test.”

Question: Bob Boone played four years as a Gold Glove catcher after 38 years of age. How much of an input did he have in making the decision on Pudge?

Mike: “He was one of the animate guys not just for a catcher, but this catcher. He had his finest season at 38—in his mind—that is what he said. We all see the resume, but we didn’t sign him because of his resume. We signed him for what he is going to bring to the club for the next two years. But we scouted mostly with our eyes on this one. He was a guy that when we saw him late in the season—he had really good bat speed. He is a guy that has a terrific approach to the plate and we feel he is going to be an offensive contributor. Defensively, he is still a standout.”

Question: Do you see Rodriguez getting a lot of playing time and stunting Flores’ growth?

Mike: “No, I don’t see him stunting his growth whatsoever. This is a guy (Flores) that was rushed from A Ball to the Big Leagues. That has never been a factor. This is only going to help Flores’ developmental process.”

With that final answer, the days media session surrounding the official signing of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez concluded. Saturday, December 12th is the non-tender deadline to offer contracts to players on the 40-Man Roster of Our Washington Nationals. It will interesting to see if Scott Olsen, or anybody else, is released from D.C.'s Team.

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