Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mike Rizzo Side Session On Matt Capps

While Sohna and I were asking questions to Mike Rizzo late this morning in Our Washington Nationals Clubhouse after The Matt Capps Introductory Press Conference, we were joined mid-stream by the remainder of the assembled media to further discuss the free agent signing of Capps and a few other off-season issues concerning Washington.

Here is that side session:

Question: Paul Kinzer (Matt's Agent) just mentioned that once Matt Capps became a free agent, you were all over it. Why was he so important to you?

“Literally, minutes after he was officially a free agent, we went after him. We recognized a fulfillment of a great need for us, fulfilled all the criteria that we like in acquiring a player. Young, talented, good attitude, character guy that fits a real need for us--and that is somebody to pitch the 9th inning of a ball game.”

Question: Paul also said the deciding factor that swung Capps over to you was the fact that he would be the closer here. Is that how you’ve envisioned him all the time?

“I envision him going into spring training as the closer and it’s his job until somebody takes it from him.”

Question: You’ve mentioned many times that you don’t always look at just statistics, the visual of what you see on the field is important. So, except for his high total of home runs allowed last year, you haven’t noticed anything physical that has hindered his performance this past year?

“No, he’s 27 out of 31, I think, in save opportunities. He’s an 86% save completion guy. Again, if he doesn’t have the 5-something E.R.A. which I believe three games—if you do the research—three games were a big reason for that 5 plus E.R.A. Three poor games that he had. If he doesn’t have that E.R.A., we are not talking to him today (Capps probably stays with The Pirates and is not non-tendered or goes to an higher bidder). We think he is going to have a solid year. We’ve now got a 26-year old guy that has the ability to pitch the 9th inning for us. And it was a guy we had identified early on as a type of guy that we really need and want in the organization. And when he became available, we went after it like we do most things. We went after it very, very hard.”

Question: You’ve been revamping and revamping and revamping the bullpen since the very moment you took over in spring training last year. How close are you to actually finishing it off?

“We are never finished. 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! And we feel we can never get enough talented players. 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.”

Question: What would you say are the greatest remaining priorities this off-season?

“You know--pitching is probably (the biggest need). You never have enough pitching. We need to improve our defense. We led the league in errors last year—which coincides with the starting pitching getting better. When your starting pitching is better, your bullpen is better. It’s runs prevented versus runs driven in. Those arguments that every team has and we recognize what we have to do. We are trying to accomplish that.”

Question: Is there any concern that Matt Capps injury from 2008 led to the increased numbers in 2009?

“No. He went through about an eight hour physical yesterday. A battery of tests and he passed with flying colors. We don’t have any worries about his physical condition.”

Question: So how do you interpret the jump in home runs last year? Is it an anomaly? A pitch placement thing?

“I saw him pitch several times last year and he looked very good when I witnessed him. I evaluated him myself. I think it is a product of guys who pound the strike zone I think give up more home runs than guys that nibble on the corners—the command guy. This is a guy who comes in during the 9th inning and is going to go right after the hitters. Often times, those guys leave balls up and they get hit out of the park. I think playing in Washington is going to help that rather than in Pittsburgh. I think it is going to be a point of concentration this year—a focal point of his preparation. And I look for that to not be the case this year.”

Question: You’ve been able to go down your list of needs and cross some major things off. For the rest of the winter are there other areas you are looking to, or is it more take opportunities as they come?

“No, we are done. We are completely finished!! (joking) Time to take a vacation!! But seriously, we recognize we have deficiencies still and we are going to address them and attack them. Some deficiencies are harder to correct than others because of the availability of certain players. And you can’t do everything in one year because the people you are trying to acquire are not there—as a free agent for example. We are working on all factors. We are looking at the free agent market. We are looking at the waiver claim—the waiver wire—every day. We’ve got irons in the fire and great conversations all the time. And when things make since to us, we’ll act. But if they don’t make since to us, we are not going to be active just to be active.”

Question: Is it right to think your "A-NUMBER 1" priority is still starting pitching?

“Yeah. We don’t feel that we have enough starting pitching—if that answers your question. We don’t know if the pitcher that we covet is available at this time. We don’t know where it’s going to come from. But starting pitching is always important. We feel that we have a good young nucleus of starting pitching. We’ve signed a veteran free agent that will help us. But in this division (NL East) and this league—you never have enough starting pitching.”

Question: How about being comfortable in middle infield?

“Middle infield? (yeah). We need to improve our defense and the middle infield is a part of that.”

Question: Mike, can you tell us who will be taken off the 40-man roster (for Capps' addition)?

“We are going to make a corresponding roster move in the next day or so when we are required to do so. So no, I can’t because the player hasn’t been told yet.”

That final answer concluded Mike Rizzo's Side Session On Matt Capps and Our Washington Nationals. There will be one more post later this evening coming out of this morning's Introductory Press Conference. It's The Quote Of The Day from Capps himself. It's not just the answer that made this comment good, but Matt's animated and honest response to our question on the side--which made it special. The Matt Capps Quote Of The Day coming later this evening on Nats320.

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