Friday, December 17, 2010

Mike Rizzo On Roster Reconstruction

The trade of Josh Willingham to The Oakland Athletics for fireballer Henry Rodriguez and lefty swinging Corey Brown perfectly summed up a conversation Nats320 had with Our General Manager Mike Rizzo two days ago about Roster Reconstruction. Rizzo is rebuilding Our Washington Nationals in his own image of what a winner should be and he doesn't back down from those beliefs.

Here is that conversation:

Rizzo: It has been no secret that pitching, defense, speed and athleticism is what we preach here. I think run production and run prevention are same means to the end. We think that speed is important. The old adage is “speed has no slump.” And that is something I believe in and Jim Riggleman believes in. And offensively, defensively, on the basepaths, it’s always good to be athletic and fast. We’ve kind of constructed our roster in that mindset. 
Nats320: Pitching and defense win championships, that was proven again this past season with The San Francisco Giants. Defense up the middle is a key part of that: How do you feel you are doing in that respect of roster reconstruction?
Rizzo: We are very athletic. We are rangy, but we are very inexperienced. Like I said last year, the best thing about a rookie is he becomes a second year player. We are over that hump with Ian (Desmond). And we are entering that hump with Espi (Danny Espinosa). But these are two big-league players and both of these guys have make-up off the charts. And if anybody can pull it off, these two guys can. We are going to get to as many, if not more, balls hit than anybody in baseball up the middle in the infield and in the outfield. And we feel good about that. 
We have to rely on those young players to mature quickly and become good Major League players. I am excited about watching it. For the first time we go into spring training knowing who are middle infielders are. They have played together for at least about 25 games. And they are both fast, athletic, with youthful exuberance. Whatever they’ve got, they are going to leave on the field. And that’s all I can really ask of them.
Nats320: Speaking of Desmond, and I heard this from others as well. He comes across to me as being a player that can become a leader on the team. Maybe the vocal guy, that Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t publicly show.
Rizzo: Well Zim leads in his own way. He leads by example. His work effort is incredible.  I think we are blessed that our best player is our hardest worker in Zimmerman. So if the other players are not watching him work and have to rely on him to be a cheerleader, then they don’t get it. This guy (Ryan) leads by example and does it the right way. But I do think Desmond is going to be a vocal leader in his own right. He has already shown flashes, even as a rookie, of taking control. 
To also be a good leader, you have to be a good player and you have to play every day. I think he is well on his way to doing both. 
Nats320: If Stephen Strasburg didn’t come down with his injury, subsequent surgery and rehab, would you still be looking for another top of the rotation starter?
Rizzo: I would say the Strasburg injury has no correlation between how we are going to construct our roster. I am going to look at him as being our free agent acquisition in 2012 (chuckling) and hopefully we can be in a position where he becomes a final piece for us in 2012.
Nats320: How about Jesus Flores? Are you finally encouraged that he’s turned the corner and can, once again, become the promising young player many saw a few years back?
Rizzo: He is playing great. He's playing great down there (in Venezuelan Winter Ball). He’s healthy. He’s happy. He’s playing both offense and defense. And I think he is relieved for the first time in a couple of years. We now go into spring training with a little bit of luxury with depth at premium positions--catcher and middle infield. And we will go there with speed, athleticism and youth. This will be the first spring training I have been around (in Washington) where we can say that. 
Nats320: Does that also mean more teams are calling you to inquire about players?
Rizzo: Our players are heavily sought after. There is no question about it. Everyone loves young, talented players that are cheap and have no service time. We’ve got plenty of them and we are going to keep them--unless we get bowled over with an offer we can’t resist and if it helps impact us in ’11 and beyond. But suffice it to say we’ve got a lot of interest from a lot of players. It’s not two or three, it’s six or eight and more.”

Photo Copyright--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

No comments: