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Rizzo on starters, Desmond, Strasburg

Feb 20, 2010, 8:58 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — Mike Rizzo held court with reporters earlier this afternoon, sort of a "State of the Franchise" thing as camp opens. The second-year GM touched on all kinds of subjects, but here's a sampling of the most-significant things he said…

— Though he stressed that he's never done looking for more help, especially on the pitching front, Rizzo did say he's "comfortable going into the season with the depth of the starting pitching we have." He made a point of mentioning three young pitchers returning from injuries (Matt Chico, Craig Stammen and Scott Olsen) as positive signs toward the overall improvement of the club's starting staff.

— Sounds like you can scratch any serious talk of Ian Desmond becoming a super-utility guy. Rizzo said it's possible the 24-year-old will get a little bit of time at some other positions this spring, but his focus will be on shortstop. Reading between the lines, it sounds likeRead more »

  1. Brian - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:03 PM

    Mark – What are the odds Desmond gets a legitimate chance to unseat Guzman at SS? How well would he have to perform to put $8M on the bench? Assuming Desmond won the SS job outright, would Guzman accept such a demotion? He did not react well to being moved down the lineup last season, how would he handle losing his starting job?

  2. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    Brian: My hunch is that the only way Desmond opens the year as the Nats' starting SS is if Guzman is either still hurt or traded. Just have a hard time seeing them bench the guy making $8 million. Do that, and you essentially lose Guzman altogether. Might as well cut him and eat the money at that point. Best guess: Guzman opens the year in D.C., Desmond in Syracuse. If he performs well down there, Guzman either gets traded or dumped in July and Desmond takes over. Again, just a hunch. A lot can change between now and then.

  3. Farid in Idaho - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Mark,With all due respect to your (very big) baseball brain, how could Tyler Clippard (4-2, 2.69, 5.4/4.8/10.0, .216/.323/.420 not be an iron clad lock for one of those spots?Unless, of course, he is yet another who has neglected to mention an injury to the brass?

  4. Anonymous8 - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Brian – That is the mistake of the past few seasons in Washington and is probably what I have been most critical of.Management convincing themselves that they have to play the veteran with the big contract instead of putting out the "best" player that will play better is not smart baseball.Personally, I think if Guzy is healthy, it isn't the KEARNS situation. Now if Guzy is lousy, than you have to make the move to Desmond.I don't ever want to see the constant showcasing of a mistake like LoDuca and Kearns and be a little quicker than was the case with Daniel Cabrera. Be decisive and don't wait until July 31st to empty the trash!

  5. David - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    Why wouldn't Clippard be in that first group of relievers? He was pretty steady last year and was one of the more effective guys in the bullpen. Is it more of a experience thing with him?

  6. Wally - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    MarkFollowing up on the theme of your Desmond comment, I keep getting the sense that essentially there are going to be two teams this year. Rizzo opens the years with a vet heavy team, due to injury recovery and extraneous things like delaying the start of the MLB service clock etc. So Pudge, Guzzy, the vet relief guys all start the year, and in a best case scenario get off to a decent start (or at least avoid the disasters of the recent past).But come midseason, the older guys start getting replaced by the younger ones (hopefully through prospect trades), and we see Flores, Desmond, Storen, SS all contributing significantly in a less pressured situation (ie the Nats are already out of the playoff running).They could never admit something like that, but do you see any inkling of that, or am I still snow blinded?

  7. UnkleWheez - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    What? Clippard has to be guaranteed a spot. That guy is really good.

  8. Anonymous - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    To review:Nats Insider: Couple Rizzo quotes but several bits of insight.MASN blog: Transcript.Edge: Nats InsiderWell done Mark

  9. bdrube - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    I'm sure they do not want Clippard to get complacent. Nothing wrong with that. If he has a solid spring I'm sure he'll be on the opening day active roster.

  10. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 20, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    Just to clarify the bullpen thing: I think Clippard is a pretty safe bet to be on the Opening Day roster. If you asked me this morning how many guys were assured of jobs, I'd have said five: Capps, Bruney, Burnett, Walker and Clippard. So I was a little surprised when Rizzo said only four were guaranteed jobs. Based on that, I figured Walker was more secure than Clippard, based on more experience, track record and salary. But I think when it's all said and done, Clippard will be in D.C. on Opening Day.

  11. Andrew - Feb 20, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    This is BIG news. I heard that the #1 Nats fans Curly Washington the monkey and his parents Colleen and Jeff arrived in Viera last night for the entire Spring Training.That is truly a great story. They are what makes a team great. You have to have great fans! The players all know and love them and even guys like Scott Boras and many outsiders somehow find them!

  12. Avar - Feb 20, 2010 at 11:23 PM

    Clippard was outstanding last year and is out of options. If he isn't on the roster, he goes on waivers and guarantee he will be claimed and the Nats will lose him w/ no compensation. Rizzo is being coy and/or trying to motivate, that's fine. But, Clippand WILL be on the roster.Bergmann is also out of options and has been too good to put through waivers. He also will be on the 25 man April 1st. I guarantee it.

  13. alm1000 - Feb 20, 2010 at 11:29 PM

    Mark,Great work and I love the audio files. I can smell the grass getting cut by the tracter in the background.

  14. peric - Feb 21, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    At this point … given the starting rotation, don't you have to assume that .500 ball is basically almost completely out of reach? They may have their work cut out to keep from having the worst record in baseball again.So, wouldn't it make sense to mix and match Desmond and Espinosa down in the minors? Team up Storen and Strasburg. Watch them along with Trevor Holder, Nate Karns and Aaron Thompson. Get Norris moving too, working on his catching to that he moves with them … It looks like a long-term approach where they really don't have the pieces they want … continue to acquire players from outside, through the draft? But boy it still looks like 2-3 years to .500 ball?

  15. peric - Feb 21, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    I just finished reading all the updates …At this point shouldn't one strongly suspect that a trade will be worked out involving Bruney? That quote: "Part of me has changed since that arbitration meeting …" It almost sounds like he is asking to be traded?There is Storen if Capps can't manage as well Logan Kensing?

  16. Anonymous8 - Feb 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Peric – I don't see 2-3 years to .500 ball as I keep envisioning that a couple of the Nats pitchers will be young guns, and expect 2011 to be a 81 win season.I have no doubt that Jordan Zimmermann will be a top of the rotation starter. The position players are solid. Looking forward to seeing this 2010 team on the field.

  17. Anonymous - Feb 21, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Mark: Just out of curiosity on my part, but of the eighteen or so players on the 40-man who were tendered, how many were given raises over their 2009 salaries? We know Dukes is getting $33k more this year; Just wondering about the rest.

  18. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 21, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Anonymous: To my knowledge, none of the other "under control" guys have signed yet. Those deals will all start getting done over the next week or two. Everybody gets at least a modest raise. It's based almost entirely on big-league service time, not on performance. Anyone with no major-league experience beyond a September call-up gets the minimum: $400,000. Everyone else makes slightly more, up to perhaps $500,000, again based on how much time they've spent in the big leagues so far.





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