MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches during a game against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on September 28, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals' plan for Jordan Zimmermann's first full season back from Tommy John surgery had some flexibility worked into it and the Nats' '07 2nd Round pick's partner atop the Nats' rotation, '09 1st rounder Stephen Strasburg, will pitch under similar restrictions in 2012, though D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this afternoon in a teleconference with the D.C. press corps that the team hadn't decided "in concrete" how many innings the 23-year-old right-hander will throw next season.
"I have general parameters of what I think is something I would allow him to throw," Rizzo said, "I'm not going to disclose it to anybody because, obviously, there's strategy that's employed in it and we don't want people to know our business, but we have a good idea of the parameters of where we want [Strasburg] to throw, and we'll adhere to those parameters. Like I said, it's nothing in concrete because we want to see how he comes to Spring Training, how he feels and how he develops throughout the season."
Another rehabbing National, Adam LaRoche, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff issues, started throwing recently according to the Nats' GM. "[LaRoche] started throwing just last week. He will be [on] a throwing program and building up to prepare for Spring Training, and he should be full go at Spring Training is the word that I got from not only from Adam but from our medical staff." The 31-year-old first baseman (who turns 32 on 11/6), struggled to generate power at the plate early in the first year of his 2-year/$16M dollar deal with the Nationals and eventually had surgery after 43 games and 117 plate appearances in which he had a .172/.288/.258 line with four doubles and three home runs.
2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon's shoulder issues were a big reason the 21-year-old third baseman out of Rice University was available for the Nats 6th overall in this past June's Draft. The Richmond, Texas-born right-handed hitting and throwing infielder didn't go to the Arizona Fall League as some had expected after participating in the Florida Instructional League. Rendon stayed behind to work on a throwing program as he built strength in his shoulder.
The Nats' general manager says the program is, "... going without a hitch. So, no setbacks and hopefully he too will be 100% ready to go for Spring Training as far as his throwing and his shoulder and that type of thing. Obviously, he's doing all other parts of his baseball activity, swinging the bat, running the bases and that type of thing. He's on his throwing program, and he too, without any setbacks should be 100% ready to go in Spring Training."
"[Rendon's] currently under a monitored throwing program with [Jeff Garber] our infield coordinator," Rizzo said, "He is on a formal throwing program with Garber and once he reaches a point where he's done with his throwing program then he's just like any other player preparing for Spring Training after that."
A third National recovering from shoulder issues, Jesus Flores. who just turned 27 today, has a .462/.488/.795 slash with four doubles and three home runs through nine games and 39 at bats in the Venezuelan Winter League. Asked how he judges players' performances in each of the various winter and fall leagues, Rizzo told reporters, "Each situation is independent of each other. Flores is a guy that, we've seen what he can do in the major leagues, so to me, Flores' job and his objective for next year is to go down to the Winter League and get as many at bats as he can, catch as many innings as he can just to knock the rust off and to get him back to playing to his accustomed pre-injury level."
"If we get the Jesus Flores [we had] pre-injury," Rizzo continued, "that's the guy we want. If it was a younger player, you have to read a little bit more into that, into the Winter League, if you're making an assessment of it. But Flores is a guy we want just to get reps, be squatting behind the plate, and take the brunt of the innings that he missed over the almost two years that he didn't play."
As for the uninjured Nats the Nationals' GM discussed, Rizzo was asked about Livan Hernandez and Pudge Rodriguez, who become free agents five days after the World Series ends. "We have not spoken since early in the offseason. They wanted to step away from it for a period of time. I think when we figure out what we're doing as far as an organization. When we get a manager, when our coaching staff is on board, we'll discuss it with them and see which direction we want to go, not only with those two, but with the rest of the ballclub and how to construct the roster."
The two things Washington's general manager told reporters he thought the Nationals needed at the end of the 2011 season were a starting pitcher and an outfield bat that brings on base percentage to the top of the order. Asked what he thought about the experiments with Jayson Werth in center late this season and if it had convinced him the 32-year-old outfielder could play center in 2012, Rizzo said, "I thought he played very well defensively in center field. I think he's a very good defensive center fielder. In a perfect world I'd like to find a leadoff-type of on base percentage guy that could hit at the top of the lineup that could play center field and Jayson play right field. But the reason that we put him in center was to give us more options, because now knowing that Jayson can more than handle the center field position it obviously opens up a bigger pool of players that can play a corner position and Jayson go to the middle. But in a perfect world I'd like Jayson to be our right fielder."
• LINK: Rizzo spoke about the search for a pitcher, Yu Darvish, Chien-Ming Wang and what the future holds for Davey Johnson in Part One of teleconference we published earlier today. We'll have one more post worth of comments from the Nats' GM along with an AFL report later tonight.