MIKE RIZZO EXTENSION OFFICIAL:
Mike Rizzo was clear throughout the process he believed a new deal would get done in due time, and though it took a little longer than expected, the President of Baseball Ops and GM in D.C. and Washington’s Nationals announced the multi-year extension early on Wednesday morning.
“Mike and I have talked and worked with each other almost daily for 17 years,” the Nationals’ Managing Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner said in a press release on the deal:
“Together with my family and the entire Nationals’ staff, we’ve always shared the same dream: to make the Washington Nationals a team that our fans could love and be proud of. We have all worked collectively to build what was essentially an expansion team with no major league depth into a contender, and then into a World Series champion.
“We’ve experienced some tough losing seasons and we’ve hung championship banners, and we’ve done it all together.
“We are once again hard at work to build a championship contender in D.C. We now believe we have the beginnings of a roster filled with promising young players and exciting prospects at nearly every position. While we once talked about winning World Series rings for our baseball-loving fathers, Mike’s family and ours now look forward to winning even more rings for our children and grandchildren – and, of course, for every other Nationals-loving fan and family everywhere. We are excited about our future.”
“I love being part of the Washington Nationals organization,” Rizzo said in his own statement on the extension:
“Nearly 17 years ago, Ted Lerner and his family asked me to help build the Nats into a winning team. Together, we managed to find success within just a few years, winning multiple divisional titles and, ultimately, bringing D.C. its first World Series championship since 1924.
“It has been a pleasure to work alongside ownership as we put the pieces together for our initial team build-up and run. Now, we believe we are developing the next generation of contenders and champions. We deeply believe in our process and in our progress. The next few years are going to be ones no Nationals fan will want to miss. My family and I want to thank the Lerner, Cohen and Tanenbaum families, Alan Gottlieb and Nationals’ management for their trust and commitment to winning another World Series. I am excited to be a part of that commitment.”
Shortly after the deal was announced, Rizzo spoke with reporters on a Zoom call to share his thoughts on getting the extension officially signed.
“I’m honored and flattered to have this extension,” Rizzo said. “It’s an honor that the Lerner family has entrusted me for so many years with the keys to the franchise. I hope I’ve been a good caretaker for them thus far and hopefully continue to bring respect and prominence to the Washington, D.C. area and to the Nationals.
“My goal is, like the rest of ownership and our front office, is to put out a product that the fanbase can be proud of and that we win a lot of games and we can bring another parade to Washington, D.C.”
Rizzo and Co. in the front office managed to do it once before, as noted above, and they are in the process of rebuilding the organization, so the GM is excited about the opportunity he now has to see the reboot through.
“You go through the dog days of the rebuild, and you just hope to get an opportunity to have some of glory that the rebuild brings you,” Rizzo explained.
“That kind of was my thought process. It’s never fun to rebuild. No general manager or field manager loves the word ‘rebuild’ because rebuild usually means you’re losing a lot of games for a significant amount of years.
“This will be my second rebuild, so we’ve gone through our share of losing, but it’s all worth it for that 8-10 year run of excellence and competitiveness and playing competitive games at the end of the season.”
“All the strife and struggles that you go through can’t even be measured to the glory that you have when that 27th out of Game 7 of the World Series goes into the guy’s mitt.
“That’s why it was so important to me to be here to see this through, and to hopefully see another succession to be a really competitive team in a really competitive division and to win another ring for the Nationals fanbase.”
As he’d said previously when Martinez’s extension was announced, Rizzo reiterated how he thought it was important to have the manager in the nation’s capital locked up first, before trying to get his own deal finished.
“The extension, I was always confident that it was going to happen. It was just something that we just never got around to getting the final deal done,” Rizzo explained.
“I thought it was important to get Davey [Martinez’s extension] done because the chemistry in the clubhouse and a lame duck manager with three months [left on his contract] is not the way you want to go through this thing and be grinding out and teaching players and developing players at the big league level. That had to be done and I’m glad it got done sooner rather than later. I was always confident about my deal.”
Martinez told reporters before last night’s game in Pittsburgh he was happy to see Rizzo’s deal get done as well.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Mike,” the manager said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.
“I’m really happy they got it done, and we get to work together for many more years, and build something again. We won a championship together and we get to try to do it again here and do it again fairly quickly.”
JACKSON RUTLEDGE MAKES MLB DEBUT:
Talking Wednesday on a Zoom call announcing his multi-year extension with the Nationals, GM Mike Rizzo briefly discussed 2019 1st Round draft pick Jackson Rutledge getting his first opportunity to take the mound in the majors for his MLB debut last night in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
Rutledge, 24, has dealt with his share of injuries, both before the draft, and in his pro career, but he worked his way up from A-ball last year to Double- and Triple-A this season, and was now getting an opportunity to come up for a few weeks of work in the majors to wrap up his fourth season in the Nats’ system.
“I’m happy about his progression and his development,” Rizzo told reporters. “I think he’s earned the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. It’s going to be fun to see him pitch a couple times in the big leagues before this season ends.”
Before his Zoom call, Rizzo spoke with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies about the road to the majors for Rutledge, who was selected with the 17th overall pick in 2019, out of San Jacinto Junior College.
With all the prospects acquired in trades, and high picks in the draft over the last few years, Rutledge, ranked 13th in the organization by MLB’s Pipeline scouts, has been overshadowed (or written off as one of the Junkies put it), but Rizzo said he didn’t see it that way.
“He has been — not I would say written off — but when you’re in the minor leagues,” he said, “... and you come from a junior college program — which is going to take you a little bit longer than if you come from an SEC program or that type of thing, and then he got nicked up a couple times and kind of struggled with that, but the last two years he’s been solid. He’s taken the ball every fifth day, which is what we’re trying to accomplish here at the big league level and the minor league level for these pitchers — because so many of them get hurt — is to finish a full season happy and healthy and progressing in the right direction. And I think that [Rutledge] has shown from his A-ball progression to Double-A and Triple-A, he’s earned the right to debut in the big leagues, and regardless of how he finishes this year, he’s going to be a big part of what we do here and with the Nationals moving forward with the rest of that young rotation and the young guys in the minor leagues that we have.
“We’re excited about [Josiah] Gray, [MacKenzie] Gore, [Jake] Irvin in the big leagues, and then you’ve got Rutledge and Cole Henry, and [Jake] Bennett, and [Cade] Cavalli and that group of guys that will all be in the big leagues sometime in the near future.”
Rizzo offered a brief scouting report on the right-hander as well, for anyone unfamiliar with the tall pitcher.
“He’s a big angle guy, so he’s a 6’7’’ guy who comes really downhill at hitters,” Rizzo said.
“He’s got a very deceptive, short-arm delivery, he kind of spits the ball out of his jersey. He’s mid-to-upper 90s on his fastball, he’s got a good breaking pitch, an assortment of breaking pitches, and a changeup that has really come on in the last year or so, so we’re looking forward to him getting his feet wet, making his debut, getting a few starts in the big leagues before the season ends, and then coming to Spring Training and trying to battle for one of the five starter spots that will be available in ‘24.”
“He worked really hard to get up here,” manager Davey Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco, before the third of four with the Pirates in PNC Park.
“He did some really good things down in the minor leagues. He started putting them together this year really well, so he’s gonna get an opportunity to go out and start today for us. He’s got a mix of four good pitches. The big thing with him, I didn’t talk too much about anything, but just hey, attacking the strike zone, as I do with all these young kids.
“Just go try to get strike one on every hitter and just have fun. I’m really looking forward to seeing him pitch.”
Regardless of the results, Martinez said Rutledge would get a few opportunities down the stretch.
“We’ll see how today goes,” he said. “But I want to give him an opportunity to throw in a few games up here. And then we’ll see what happens after that.”
It didn’t go exactly as anyone on the Nationals’ side hoped, with Rutledge giving up four of seven total runs he gave up overall, in a 33-pitch first inning, on a couple well-hit balls and some hits which fell in, and he ended up giving up 10 hits in 3 2⁄3 innings, over which Bucs’ hitters connected for two doubles and a two-run home run. But Rutledge said afterwards it was pretty much what he dreamed it would be.
Only thing stopping that from the river was the foul pole. pic.twitter.com/38SeLhfCse— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 13, 2023
“It was pretty much spot-on to what I was expecting, to be honest,” Rutledge said.
“Beautiful stadium, beautiful place to play. Obviously I dreamed of a better first inning, but like I said, it will be better next time.”
“Just fell behind,” Martinez said in assessing Rutledge’s outing. “Fell behind a little bit. The adrenaline was really pumping a little bit.”
When the adrenaline wears off, the back of Rutledge’s head might be a bit sore. In a scary moment, he ducked to get out of the way of catcher Drew Millas’s throw to second on a stolen base attempt and took the ball off of his head, hard enough it ricocheted into the outfiedl, but he was able to stay in the game.
“He’s okay,” Martinez said in talking about the play and allowing Rutledge to stay in the game.
There are a couple adjectives you can use to describe Jackson Rutledge's debut. "Uneventful" isn't one of them...for the wrong reasons. pic.twitter.com/qcvnHRc1CG— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) September 13, 2023
“But I didn’t want him to end — unless there was something wrong with him, I wanted him to kind of finish on the mound, I didn’t want to take him out right there.
“But overall, his stuff is good. We just got to get him to throw more strikes, get ahead of hitters. First inning, he threw some pretty good pitches. He just got dinged a little bit there. But overall, I thought he did okay for the first outing, I really did. I’m not going to look at the runs. But he made some pretty good pitches. So we’ll get him back out there in five or six days.”
“Obviously, I got behind more than I would have liked to,” Rutledge said.
“The first hitter I got behind. But battled back and kind of showed that I can throw all my pitches in the zone. Obviously, didn’t have the best feel for the curveball today. It was missing up with the fastball, but those things happen. Especially with 11 days between starts. I didn’t make my last start because of rain and all sorts of stuff. But first inning is about just establishing yourself in the zone.”