DC GM Mike Rizzo was on Sirius/XM's Power Alley with Seth Everett and former DC GM Jim Bowden this morning to talk about all things Washington Nationals...
• Read Part 1 of 2...HERE.
Seth Everett: You know, one of the things a lot of people want to know is just how to evaluate (Stephen Strasburg), because everything that he's doing is getting so much press. He hasn't thrown a pitch that hasn't been seen by some reporter or somebody, everybody's kind of into him on such high levels, I'm kind of curious to get your perspective on just how much you're evaluating him as opposed to any other pitcher you have in the system?
Mike Rizzo: Well, we're trying to evaluate him and treat him just like any other good prospect that we have in our system. He's an important piece for us because he's one of the players in baseball that I believe has the chance to be a front of the rotation guy, those guys don't come along too often, so we're going to develop him at the pace that we think is going to maximize his productivity for us. If that means keeping him in the minor leagues for an extended period of time that's what we'll do. But we're certainly attempting to treat him just like every other guy coming into big league camp, although that's difficult at times, he's not just an everyday guy, so we certainly have to take into account that stuff, and things are a little bit different for him. He's got a good head on his shoulders, he just got married, and like I said, he feels really good about where he's at in his preparation for Spring Training. We saw him pitch very often in the Arizona Fall League and he threw outstanding there, he had one hiccup in one of his starts which I thought was probably the most beneficial start for him when he got smacked around a little bit and gave up all those runs in that one outing, and the way he bounced back from that, the way he handled not only the media but his teammates, and the way the next three starts went were all very encouraging to me."
Jim Bowden: Mike, you get the first pick in the 2010 Draft as well, and I guess my first question is: Is Bryce Harper in the mix for that first pick and who are the top two or three guys, and will you being seeing the first pick and how deep in the draft will you be scouting?
Mike Rizzo: "Bryce certainly will be one of the guys we talk about. We had ourselves a little bit of a mock draft here a couple weeks ago, we brought in all our amateur guys to discuss that, we set up a Top 100. There's several people that I think that will be involved in the first pick, I'm going to try and see somewhere around 30 or 40 players this year in the amateur draft, and we've got a really good set of amateur scouts that I trust and I think it's going to be a strong draft year and I think we're going to have a strong draft."
Seth Everett: Everybody has Spring Training optimism, tell us about the Spring Training optimism that the Washington Nationals have and more importantly the Washington Nationals fan listening should have?
Mike Rizzo: Well, I think there's going to be a mixture of really good young players on the field, mixed in with some experienced veterans to mentor them. I think that we improved our bullpen, we've got an innings-eater at the top of the rotation. I think with the maturation of guys like (John) Lannan, (Garrett) Mock and (Ross) Detwiler, we've got the assemblance of some good young starters that are going to perform for us, and I think a full season of having Nyjer Morgan in center field and having (Adam) Dunn at first base...and I think with improved pitching and improved bullpen, I think that we're looking to improve ourselves in the way we play the game and the energy that's on the field, and I think there's a sense of optimism with not only our young players, but the players we have fielded for the 2010 season."
Jim Bowden: Mike, when you were with me in Washington, you were in the room with me when we traded Glenn Gibson for Elijah Dukes and as we told ownership at that time he's got as good a chance of landing in jail as he does in the All-Star Game, but he could get to either one...(ed. note - "At this point an audible disappointed sigh appears on the recording...the source of the sigh is unknown...it was me.")...Obviously he's been through a lot off the field, a very tough upbringing, certainly been through a lot, I wanted to check in on him...How's his maturity, how's he doing, and at this point in his career do you think he's got a better chance of making an All-Star game or landing back in jail?
Mike Rizzo: "Well I think he's matured, Jim...you know, ten-fold. He's done a great job with his off the field stuff, and I'm knocking on wood right now, we haven't had any issues with him over the last year and a half. He's a guy, between the lines this guy he's 110% percent and he really lets it loose. He had a few nicky-nack kind of injuries last year that kept him out of the lineup regularly, he's a guy that has to play regularly as you know. We did...when his struggles continued after he came back we sent him down to the minor leagues, which was...he really thought was a positive, so that turned out really well for us...and he's made a turnaround in the clubhouse, he's communicating and interracting with his teammates...And you know, a real gutsy move back when you made it, when we made it, and it was, the kid has really matured on and off the field. I'm expecting for him to have a healthy solid season. He's a good defender, and he's got big time power, and you know, those darn advance scouts kind of figure out, they make adjustments on the player, so the player, now it's his turn to make an adjustment on the league and on the pitchers, and if he's able to do that I think he's going to put together a really solid good season for himself...and he gives us defense and some speed and some power potential, and you know, he's not afraid to drive in a run, per at bat, his RBI's are outstanding and he's going to be an important piece of our lineup this year and I'm looking for him to have a good season."
JIm Bowden: Mike, you were close to a deal trading Josh Willngham for a good young starting pitcher, do you think that deal can come back alive?
Mike Rizzo: You know, I'm not sure. We were close on a couple of deals that we thought were good deals for our organization. You know, once a lot of the right-handed bats have fallen it has backed off a little bit, but we're always looking. Josh is a guy that we love in the clubhouse, we love on the field, he's a guy that protects (Adam) Dunn in the five hole there...So, we're certainly not in the market of looking to move him, like I said, if it's a good young starter that a long-term guy for us we would think about it, but we're in no hurry to trade Willingham. He's too good. He's too good in the five hole. Too good in the clubhouse, and a great guy to be around."
Seth Everett: Mike, do you find Bowden to be this cool and calm when he was the general manager of the Nationals?
Mike Rizzo: "Jim and I...you can't, you will never hear me saying a bad word about Jim Bowden. I had a great three years with him. I appreciated him bringing me over here in the first place, and he's one of the big reasons why I'm in the chair right now, so, we had a great scenario together...he gets a little excited at times, excited and colorful when the doors are closed, but I learned a lot of things from him that I employ in my general managership today..."
Seth Everett: I'm planning a trip down to Washington, do you think you and I could have an off-air conversation about Bowden?
Mike Rizzo: We certainly could, yes.
Seth Everett: "...it was a nice discussion, but you know, I wanted a couple of fisticuffs here?"
Jim Bowden: " Yeah, that's probably not going to happen. You know, Mike Rizzo did a great job when he was working for me. We got along extremely well. He's got a good nucleus of scouts there and you know it's going to take time to rebuild, when you're building it this way, from the bottom up, and you don't have the flexibility to make some big huge moves to help your big league club quicker, it just just takes time...unfortunately as Tampa learned, and Oakland learned, and Minnesota learned over the years, sometimes it can take 5 to 10 years, and it takes a while."