Washington Nationals' Skipper Jim Riggleman made an appearance on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch" this morning, talking with Rob Dibble and Jim Memolo about the state of the Nationals heading into Spring Training. The discussion started with a question about how the Nats' manager plans to arrange the batting order this year now that they've officially added left-handed hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche into the mix with Ryan Zimmerman and the $126 Million Dollar Man Jayson Werth:
Jim Riggleman: "As you say I'm scratching that out on paper all the time and everything, but three, four and five for us I'm really happy to see who the guys are, but what order they hit in will be determined a little bit [by] how each of them are swinging the bat at that point and who some matchups are...but generally i think we would like to be able to go right, left, right there with [Ryan] Zimmerman, [Adam] LaRoche and [Jayson] Werth. The key to that will be whoever hits sixth, whether it's [Mike] Morse or [Roger] Bernadina or [Rick] Ankiel, one of those guys has gotta be swinging the bat to protect Werth also."
Asked about his new lineup which will be missing the power they had last season with the departure of two middle of the order bats, Riggleman responded that it might end up working out for the best, "We do not have Adam Dunn and [Josh] Willingham, two really big contributors for the ball club that did a great job, and that's the downside," Riggleman said. "The upside is that we replaced them with two real good athletes and guys who are good defensive players as well as swing the bat. We might lose a little bit in terms of the home run ball, but we're hoping that we might make up for it with a little bit of range defensively and with the development of some other parts of the ballclub we think it ends up being a plus for us."
The Nationals' GM and Front Office have been busy, especially recently, building the roster for the 2011, season, the Nats' Skipper was asked about what input he's had regarding what Washington's added this winter:
JIm Riggleman: "The way Mike [Rizzo] operates is we talk a lot during the season, he's in my office a lot, we're out by the batting cage talking. He knows what I like in a player, and I know, with his background in scouting, what he can do to try to identify those players. We talk a great deal. Once the season's over that's kind of his season. He goes out and tries to get those guys and I think he's done a great job. He's gotten the team to be more athletic. I think we've got a chance to play much better defense. You know [to Dibble] you saw us last year, we hit a spell, inexplicably for about six weeks somewhere in the early May to mid-June area where we just did not play defense and it killed us, and I think that those type of lapses should not occur for any stretch of time with this club that we've a chance to put out there. Certainly [Rizzo] tried to identify starting pitching to upgrade that, and I think he's done that, but I think that whether it's subtly or not, I think we just can't help but feel we're going to pitch better this year in our starting rotation, our bullpen did a good job, but we think our starters are going to pitch better than they did last year."
A few manager's around the league have already named their Opening Day starters, can Riggleman?:
Jim Riggleman: "I was asked that, and it was kind of presented to me in a manner of 'I guess Livo [LIvan Hernandez] will be your Opening Day starter?', and I certainly wouldn't deny that, you know, because, out of the respect for what he's accomplished, he was our best pitcher last year, he's a veteran guy and in some ways that Opening Day is as much [about] who can handle that particular day, the build-up to that day and the big crowd and all that, I would be surprised if it's not Livo, I guess I'll leave it at that."
How much of Bryce Harper will we see in Spring Training?:
Jim Riggleman: "I think he'll get a fair amount of at bats. The main thing is, once the minor league games start getting played, he's gonna need to get over there and get into a lot of competition. But during the course of the major league Spring Training, we'll get him some at bats early on, and then as we do also have so many pitchers in camp, they'll need to be getting extra work so we'll be creating somewhat of an inter-squad or B-game-type situations where he'll be getting more and more at bats against Major League pitchers, so I think it's going to be a great experience for him. We're all excited to see him, but I guess at 18-years-old I just want him to develop and once he gets to the big leagues be able to stay there and get comfortable, get settled in, find himself as a professional in the minor leagues for a little while. But you look at what [the Marlins' Mike] Stanton and [the Braves' Jason] Heyward did in the National League East this past year at 20-years-old, if someone told me Bryce could do that at age 20, I'd take it right now."
Any chance Harper comes up in 2011?
Jim Riggleman: "Sometimes players are just so dominant that the competition where they're playing just is not enough for them. They just overwhelm that level of competition. If that happens, we're not going to slow his progress down to the point where it's not doing him any good to stay in a particular league. We've got a great Farm Director in Doug Harris. He and Bobby Henley, our field coordinator will have a close eye on Bryce as they will all of our young players, and if he needs to move from one league to the next, we'll move him, and if it just drives through and it gets to a point where he even gets to Double-A which I think would be a little bit of a stretch this year, if he was ever to reach that level...Once you get to Double-A, the competition there has all funneled in from several leagues, to everybody only [having] one Double-A team, so there's a lot of talent funneled into that level, if he gets the point where he can really play well in Double-A then we know we have a player."
(ed. note - " (1) MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo already has Harper listed as the 2nd best outfield prospect in baseball in an article he posted today entitled, "Prospect Watch: Top 10 outfielders"; (2) The above is not a full transcript, some of the conversation is excluded for brevity's sake.")