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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo still optimistic there will be baseball in 2020

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters again this morning to keep everyone updated on what’s going on behind the scenes in the front office in D.C.

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According to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan this week, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred recently told, “a wide swath of the sport’s staffers” that he, “...fully anticipate(s) baseball will return this season,” after the start of the 2020 campaign was postponed back in mid-March due to concerns over the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said he shares the Commissioner’s optimism that there will be baseball this summer, though he still isn’t sure when things will get started.

Rizzo didn’t, however, have any more information on the rumored plans to play some sort of season sequestered in Arizona, or Florida, or both, or in other places.

“I think these are all hypotheticals, we’re at that level right now,” Rizzo said.

“The Commissioner recently told us that he fully anticipates us playing a baseball season in 2020, and I’m behind him on that, I support that, and like we’ve said in the past we’re going to need some outside-the-box ideas, but I think the Commissioner is committed to play and I trust that we will find a way.”

Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ 35-year-old first baseman, recently discussed talk of a 2-3 week ramp up to the start of a season, when/if it’s safe to start playing baseball again.

Rizzo said this morning they don’t have any additional info, but the obvious issue once they do start another Spring Training will be making sure that pitchers are able to ramp up, with their safety and health the paramount concern.

“The most important part of any Spring Training is preparation for your pitchers, especially your starting pitchers,” the GM explained, “... and getting them stretched out in a safe and prudent manner. I think that’s always the challenge.

“I think whenever you have to expedite a Spring Training, that’s probably the most impactful decision that you have to make, how to ramp them up. Fortunately we’ve got — all of our pitchers are under the care of [Pitching Coach] Paul Menhart and [Senior Advisor, Player Development] Spin Williams. We’ve got a good protocol and a good plan in place for each and every one of them, they’re in constant contact with them, and hopefully when we do begin a Spring Training, we will be at or ahead of where we need to be to prepare for the season.”

Pitchers around the league did, of course, have a few weeks of bullpens, live bullpens, and live game action before things were shut down on March 12th, so, Rizzo was asked, will the innings they pitched already count towards their build-up, or are they starting all over now that they’ve had so much time off?

“We certainly have a plan for that because we know where our pitchers are throughout the break, if you will,” Rizzo said. “This is going to be — if you had just shut down after Spring Training 1.0, you would have to full ramp back up for the Spring Training that’s going to be upon us, so, depending on what a pitcher has done and how he has stayed stretched out will determine his readiness for a Spring Training 2.0.”

Does he think the time off will have any affect on the club, which was determined to avoid any sort of World Series hangover, and supplemented the members of the roster still with the team with some additions they think will allow them to contend once again if/when it’s time to play?

“I’m not sure. It’s a good question,” Rizzo told reporters.

“When we find out when we’re going to play, I think we’re certainly going to put a schedule and a calendar together to see how it will affect our players. I think that we went into this thing thinking that we’ve got ourselves a really good, powerful team that should contend for another World Championship.

“Nothing has changed in my mind to counteract that, so I still think that we’re one of the better teams in baseball and at the end of the day we should be competing for the World Championship.”

All things considered, the GM continued, he’s confident there will be baseball at some point this year.

“I’m optimistic, as is the Commissioner that we’ll have baseball in 2020,” Rizzo said, “...and I’m upbeat about that. I think that the most important thing is to do it in the right way and the safest manner that we can, but I believe that we will have baseball.”