Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo Talks To The Natosphere At Nationals Park. Pt. 2

Last week, after some rumor-filled days which had many "reporting" that the Nationals would not sign their top draft pick and that then-"Acting" DC GM Mike Rizzo was on the way out as the general manager of the Washington Nationals, Mr. Rizzo not only signed the Nationals' #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, but he was named the Nationals' full-time GM. Mr. Rizzo ended his week at the Nationals' Blogger's Day, where he (and DC team President Stan Kasten) made themselves available for questions from the Natosphere for close to half an hour. What follows is the transcript of the DC bloggers' conversation with Mr. Rizzo, the entire article, (including Pt. 1 which I published last week) and the full audio recording of the interview can be found after the JUMP...

Q: Has your approach to the job changed since you were named the full-time GM?

Mike Rizzo: I can honestly say that I haven't approached the job one bit different when I was officially given the title than last week. I always thought I had ownership of the job, and there's only one way you can do this job, you better dive into it with both feet and just keep grinding away, so in that vein it hasn't changed one bit. The title, the official title and the official job and all that that brings is a nice byproduct of it, but as far as getting to work, getting to the office and doing my job, it hasn't changed...

Q: What changes/moves are you going to make in September?...

Continued after the JUMP!!!

Q: What changes/moves are you going to make in September?...

Mike Rizzo: Well, as we've said before, we're certainly going to control the innings of our young starting pitching, there's a handful of guys, that their innings are going to quickly come to a close, so we have to address that issue. So we're certainly going to bring up a couple of the pitchers that have performed for us already, you know the Martis', the Detwiler's, and that type, we're going to bring up some other players to possibly give auditions to see what we've got going into the winter, but the pitching is the big priority in September call-ups, so we're going to have to control innings, and i've always made that very clear and very important that we are going to control innings. 

Q: Free agency this winter? For pitching?

Mike Rizzo: Yeah I think that, we've said, we've got four rookies in the rotation right now and one second-year guy, we've always felt that, uh, i've always felt that even a veteran pitcher at the top of the rotation, it doesn't have to be a #1 quality starting pitcher, but it has to be uh, a guy that we're going to look at in the winter, will be a veteran type of guy that can mentor the younger pitchers, and take on some innings, a guy that's a workhorse and that works well with the younger players to get everybody a little bit down another slot in the rotation, everybody get comfortable, a little more comfortable...

Q: Scouting by eye and using statistical analysis...? An example?

Mike Rizzo: "With the pitchers, with pitchers, I'm a big ground ball guy. I think ground balls are better than fly balls, because with a ground ball you have a chance to get two outs with one pitch. So that's always been a sabermetrics measurement of...(inaudible: analyisis?)...When we did the Nyjer Morgan trade, there was sabermetrics plugged into that, because we didn't have a lot of data on Nyjer in center field, because he played mostly left field, although we did get lucky and we scouted 7 or 8 games in center field when McLouth was injured, he had to play center field so, but we looked at zone ratings a lot and that kind of thing, so we bring the statistical analysis into it, although, you know, I trust what I see more than what I read, but it's always nice when what I read corresponds to what I think I see."

Q: Will you be looking at Adam Dunn to see if it's possible to keep him long-term at first? Will you be evaluating or will veterans be auditioning the rest of the way? 

Mike Rizzo: "Well certainly, I wouldn't say the veterans are auditioning for the club. We have to answer questions of where we're going to be this winter to set the stage for what we're going to do in the winter. Which, as we've seen this year, it's very difficult once Spring Training starts to radically change your ballclub, we were fortunate this year, and kind of brought in some different bullpen arms that seemed to stabilize us a little bit, but it's difficult to do that, so the winter is such an important part of it and these last five weeks or so are an important time for me and my staff to get a line on what we believe we really have on the team..."

Q: The first great Nats team? How much of it is in place already?

Mike Rizzo: "I think we've got a lot of building blocks in place. I mean, you can see the key position players that we have, that we control, and like I said, the starting rotation is young with a lot of upside. We think that we have the majority of the core of the team, that when we become good, is on the team right now, and we're always looking for what we've got in the minor league system, we've discussed before Stan (Kasten) and I that the Arizona Fall League is going to be a place to really see what the future of the Nats is going to be..."

(ed. note - "Mr. Kasten's comment here, (before the AFL roster was announced): "I'm sure you'll here stories as we approach, I don't know that many teams have ever put a class in the Arizona Fall League as prestigious as the one we will, as close to the major leagues as we will, we're not ready to announce all the names, but you'll be, I think, very impressed with the quality of prospect and how close they are to the majors..."...more on Mr. Kasten's comments at the end of this article.")

Q: Are you going to expand your international scouting? (which the questioner believes is narrowly focused)

Mike Rizzo: "I disagree with the narrow part, we do a really good job in the Dominican Republic. We do have to expand ourselves into Venezuela specifically and the other Latin American countries. We signed eleven solid guys out the Dominican Republic this season, this year alone, but, uh, we always felt that Rawlings Academy was a temporary fix for us although it's served us quite quite well this season, but we're looking in the future to go down there and make more permanent accomodations for our players and we're going to do that in the very near future, so it is a priority for us."

Q: Any plans on expanding into the Pacific Rim, Japan, Korea, Australia?

Mike Rizzo: "Definitely. The Pacific Rim will be a place of focus for us. The Pacific Rim is for, strictly to supplement your major league club. We have, uh, Bill Singer is our coordinator, of the Pacific Rim, ex-major league pitcher, and he goes there several times, at least one per season, some seasons he's gone twice, he's currently getting set to go the World Games that are in Europe this year, and he keeps his finger on the pulse pretty good in the Pacific Rim."

Q: How hard will it be to resist rushing Stephen Strasburg to the majors?

Mike Rizzo: Stephen's going to arrive here when he deserves to pitch in the major leagues. When he's developed correctly, and when he's, when we deem that he's major league-ready, and he's going to help the major league club long-term. It'll be on his pace..."

Q: How much are Potomac, Harrisburg, and Syracuse beating you up to have Strasburg sent them to their team?

Mike Rizzo: "Wherever he lands is going to be a good place for that ballclub for sure..."

Q: How close is Strasburg to the majors from what you've seen?

Mike Rizzo: "The stuff is easy to gauge, it's major-league-quality, and it's major-league-ready, but as I said before, the adjustment really comes in the mental and the emotional part of it for these...specifically for Steph(en), you know, the everyday-ness of professional baseball is what I've found is thee biggest adjustment that a college or high school player has to make. As a student athlete, you go to class all day, you go to practice a little bit, you have 3 or 4 games a week, and although it's time-consuming, it's not your full-time job, you think, eat, sleep and drink it, which you have to do in professional baseball. To get ready from playing, from pitching one game a week, to pitching every five days with a bullpen in between, those are adjustments physically that you have to make. So, to answer your question, 'How close he is to the major leagues?' Stuff-wise he's very close, if not there right now, he's got the total package to pitch in the major leagues, we just have to make sure that we ramp him up and he's ready for the major leagues physically, emotionally and mentally."

Q: How confident were you throughout the Strasburg negotiations? Was there a moment it turned?

Mike Rizzo: "I think there was a momentum and confidence we felt towards the end that we could get a deal done, I mean Stan and I were sitting there with just minutes left in the negotiation still with a little bit of a question mark in our minds, but we, all along...What I do believe happened was, I do believe Stephen was driving the negotiation and I do believe he wanted to play, and I do believe he really wanted to play for the Washington Nationals, and with that said, I was confident that we would get the deal done. But, you know, when stuff starts going that fast and the momentum is rolling, you know, it certainly is an uneasy feeling until you really get it done..."

Q: What would have to happen in this last month for you to say, "That was good?"

Mike Rizzo: "Well, obviously our record is disappointing, we don't like where it is, but for the continuation of the club to play extremely hard, last night's game (against Milwaukee) in point of fact, they battled back to the tie the game against a pretty darn good team, I like the effort, I like the improvement on the fundamental part of the game, I really liked the team concept and the comraderie in the club house, it's been great, I'd like for our starting pitchers to take the next step forward. We see glimpses of Garrett Mock being the guy that we thought he was going to be when we traded for him. I would certainly like to answer some questions for us going into the winter so we can prepare for 2010..."

(ed. note - "I made the decision to only feature the questions Mike Rizzo fielded, though Stan Kasten was in the room answering questions as well, because I thought it was important to get an idea of the vision the new Nationals' GM has for the team and for its future. I'll include the audio below, because I think Mr. Kasten had a lot of interesting stuff to say, but I wanted to give Mr. Rizzo a chance to 'virtually' speak to the readers of this blog, who (for the most part) seemed to support his recent moves and decisions as well as his promotion to the full-time position...What follows the audio is the first part of the Rizzo Q&A I published last week...")

• Blogger's Day At Nationals Park: Mike Rizzo/Stan Kasten Blogger Q&A FULL AUDIO: 25:30

Part I

Q: What to take from this season?

Mike Rizzo: "I think we have to evaluate the improvement from Opening Day to the end of the season. I think that's the litmus test here, is to see how far we've come, who's made strides, how big are the strides that they've made and what's the next step after this..."

Q: Upgrading second base and shortstop? Is Cristian Guzman a second baseman in the future?

Mike Rizzo: "We haven't approached Cristian with any of that, or have we made a decision on that, Cristian, offensively obviously is one of the better middle infielders in the game. Defensively, pretty sure-handed shortstop, although his range at this point is not quite where you want it to be, I haven't approached him about moving to second base, it's a possibility, but the probability is to get one of those two positions in a different way, via free agency, trade, or that type of thing, but we're very cognizant of speed and defense up the middle is vital to a pitching orientated ballclub, which I think we're going to be not only this year and next year..."

Why the decreased range for Guzman?

Mike Rizzo: "No, i think he's, as the injury process goes on, you lose a step, but he has made great strides this year in positioning himself better, he's getting to balls in the second-half of the season that he didn't even get to in the first-half, and that's a byproduct of knowing the league better, watching film more often and having a better preparation approach to the game the second-half than he did in the first half..."

How's your week been?

Mike Rizzo: It's been great! It's been a great week! Very busy, very uh...

How was Wednesday? (The big rumor-filled day)...

Mike Rizzo: Wednesday was, uh, not as good as Monday...The information, the mis-information, I agree with Stan, was unfortunate, but, uh, it didn't effect me nearly as much as the people who knew me and were rooting for me, cause I knew on Tuesday that I had the job. The Wednesday stories were at first, it was a little comical, and then as the day drew on and it seem to kind of snowball into more of a for sure thing that I wasn't going to get the job, and uh, you know, family members and friends were a little more vocal in their displeasure..."

To be continued...

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