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Mike Rizzo, Briefly Noted

A few media members chatted this afternoon with acting GM Mike Rizzo. Among the topics of conversation: Trades, Matt Chico, Jordan Zimmermann.

In order...

On whether he envisions any deals going down to clear the outfield logjam:

Rizzo: Yeah, we've got a lot of phone calls out there. We're not going to make a deal to make a deal. We're going to make a good baseball decision before we move any players, and the landscape is -- the closer we get to the end of spring training, the better the landscape gets... Contracts always come into the picture when you're working on trades. That's just part of the trading problem that we have.

On his impression of Matt Chico (recovering from Tommy John), who threw a simulated game today:

Rizzo: Chico is progressing very nicely. He's got good range of motion. His arm is working very well. He's on schedule, and a bit ahead of schedule, of what we thought he'd be. Without any roadblocks, he's probably scheduled to take the mound full-go in mid- to late-July.

On Jordan Zimmermann:

Rizzo: Zim is one of our top prospects, and those guys are not only coveted. They have to be protected. He's a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher from a cold weather state who's never pitched many innings in one season in his career, so we're going to do what's best in the long-term of the Washington Nationals and the long term of Jordan Zimmermann. Like I said, we still have close to three weeks left, and we're taking it day-by-day with him. He's been outstanding, without a doubt, and he's one of the bright, bright parts of our future.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 17, 2009; 3:18 PM ET
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Next: Your Opening Day Starter... John Lannan


I noticed in an early thread some questions about whether Tavarez has his work visa. He does not. He's still here on a tourist visa, and until then, he's eligible only to practice and play in games like this one -- which aren't really games.

Some time w/in the next week, Tavarez will miss camp for a day or two, return to the DR and get his work visa. After that, you'll be seeing him pitch for real.

Posted by: chicoharlan | March 17, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Chico, that was me with the Tavarez question - thanks for the comeback.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Reading the tea leaves, then, we'd like to deal Kearns but don't want to pick up as much of his salary as our trading partners are requesting, and there is a chance that despite his performance this spring, Zimmermann is more a part of the future than the present and will not be thrust into a rotation spot right away.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Another view of Rizzo's comment might be "we're gonna make a good baseball decision ... unless we can't because the guy we want is too expensive." Recall that Barry suggested that Duaner Sanchez might be too expensive even at $1.2 million ....

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Isn't there a way of protecting Zimmermann while letting him pitch with the big league club? It seems a bit silly if the team's best pitcher pitches in Syracuse for any length of time, if the Nats in any way want to compete.

Posted by: GoNats22 | March 17, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Bobl, you and I are drinking the same tea. That's how I read it. Along with - we'd like to deal now, but it's not exactly clear who's going to have a gaping hole in their OF, or just a small hole in their OF.

My tea may be stronger - I see this saying "Zimm's definitely starting in Syracuse - we'll see about bringing him up in June and we're going to control his IP tightly."

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 17, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Good news regarding Matt Chico - I see him as a solid LR/spot-starter option on the Nationals' staff when he's healthy.

With J-Zimm, I think they'd just keep a sharp eye on his IP/PT counts, & shut him down if he exceeds thresholds. The question could become where is he better monitored, in WAS or in HAR/SYR? It might be better long-term to send him down and have him pitching once a week in the minors, rather than keep him with the big club & shut him down in August. I'm torn on this one.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse


Not that I want to bring team budgets back into the discussion, but the 2009 Nationals' salary level is around $65.4M+ for the current 40-man roster, and could go higher. The Lerners' may be hesitant to go much above that, and are instead commiting $$$ to the draft, knowing what lies there. Just my two-cents worth.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

If you compare J.Z-mann's innings to Lannan's, he's about 2 years behind him. Which isn't surprising considering when they were drafted. I'd expect J.Z. to get around 160 innings this year split between the minors and majors. Next year, he's in the rotation full time.

Posted by: psubman | March 17, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

For Broken FotF / N-squared, it is probably easier to control his innings for a couple of months in AAA before letting him loose in the majors. As much as the denizens of Syracuse would like to see him go 7 or 9 every time out, keep him at about 4 innings max a start for April, then boost it 5 or 6 in May, would get him about 40 innings or so in the minors by the start of June. Then he could come up, get in 120 innings over the last 20 starts. As has been noted, this most likely delays the arbitration clock a year, too. It would still be a higher level of competition than last year, so it is not like it would be no challenge to a mortal man[n].

I think Hendo thought there is a way to limit his innings to about 160 if, rather than push him back a day, you would give him off days whenever his slot came up and there was a day off. That would lead to other inflexibilities with the rotation and may put extra stress on the other starters.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"I see this saying "Zimm's definitely starting in Syracuse - we'll see about bringing him up in June and we're going to control his IP tightly." "

I don't see it this way. Remember, an IP is an IP, whether it's pitched in the majors or the minors. So if he pitches in the minors until June and then they bring him up, or if he's up right from the start, at some point it sounds like they will shut him down for the season. And if he's pitching well and can do the job at the major league level in April, why have him pitch in the minors at all? Let him pitch all his innings for the parent club before they have to shut him down. The more innings he can pitch in DC, the fewer innings they have to get out of some other pitcher who may not be as good or as ready as Zimmermann.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 17, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Last year ZNN made 20 starts and threw 134 innings. It would not seem unreasonable to target something like 25 starts and 150 innings. Those are 5th starter numbers, but Rizzo may feel that throwing 90 pitches every fifth day in the minors is better for his development than throwing variable numbers of pitches on an irregular schedule in the majors.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Nun - I'm not arguing that a minor inning is less than a major inning - what I'm arguing is that you don't do developmental pitching at the MLB level. For instance, as jca says - in Syracuse, or Harrisburg, you can have him pitch 4 -5 IP per start and then take him out, even if he's got a no-hitter going. At the MLB level, you're just constrained by what you can do, and what stresses you are putting on the other pitchers around him. You do that for two months, control his innings at the outset, and then give him 20 starts at the MLB level with a hard ceiling of 120-ish more IP. That gets you to a 160-ish kind of number which is right. Next year, like Lannan was last year, he's a mainstay.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 17, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

By the way, starting Broken FotF in Syracuse is something similar to how the Red Sox brought along Jon Lester in'07. JT was the 5th starter, pretty effective through June, bombed a bit after the All Star break, then was replaced by Lester in August. This let Lester build back up slowly after his chemo treatment.

I have not seen Zimmermann. How big is his frame? Is he a thin, whip type or does he look like a horse? Do people think he'll fill out? Is he big and getting bigger in a Colon sense?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the 3d post on this in 10 minutes, but the best example of limiting innings in the majors is Scott Kazmir. The Rays shut him down early at least one season to limit his innings. I think he was their all star that year ('06 or '07). Hasn't stopped him from getting hurt, and he had trouble pitching beyond the 6th 2d half of last year. I don't know if this is good or bad.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

The reason to start Zimmermann in the minors would be because he's struggling against major league hitters. That's obviously not the case. Start him in the majors and use Tevarez/Bergman/Wells for spot starts to limit his starts. Don't limit his innings per start.

Posted by: pwilly | March 17, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm OK with taking a cautious approach with ZNN by starting him in the minors, if we take a cautious approach starting him in the majors, then all of a sudden we are back to managing the roster instead of trying to win games, which was hard to watch last year. However, if ZNN is in the minors and Hill can't go, we need to bring in another starter. I don't want Julian Tavarez making 20-25 starts for this team.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

295, we are indeed drinking the same tea, you said it better than I did while I was still typing.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and by the way, don't get me wrong - I love this kid, but let's not make him "our best pitcher" just yet - he's looked fantastic in the Grapefruit season, but our best pitcher, both on potential and demonstrated MLB performance, is John Lannan. It amazes me the way folks have sort of looked past him. He was 22nd in the NL last year in ERA, tied with a couple of stiffs named Carlos Zambrano and Randy Johnson. Oh, and by the way, Scott Olsen, our next best pitcher, wasn't too far away, at #30. Both of those guys pitched well enough to be #2- #3 starters on just about any NL rotation.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

From what I've been hearing, it doesn't sound like Zimmermann really needs developmental pitching at this point. He needs to pitch against major leaguers in order to become a major league starter. The concern is that he doesn't do too many innings of that this year - i.e. you realize that he'll have to be shut down at some point. It doesn't really matter whether he finishes early or starts later in the season, absent any pennant race considerations, so if he's throwing well now why not let him keep on doing that on the major league club where it will do some good, until he hits his limit and gets replaced by a Chico or a September callup?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Zimmermann would not be a back of the rotation starter in Syracuse. He would be in Washington. Back of the rotation guys get bumped and often go on irregular schedules. Starting in Syracuse allows the Nationals to start him every fifth day without impacting the major league staff.

Posted by: Brian_ | March 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Don't teams try to keep their players in the minors for at least the start of the year so as to limit their major league playing time? I'm not up on all the rules, but I believe it has something to do with major league playing time and when they would be eligible for arbitration, not saying I agree with it or fully understand it but it seems to be a business decision to keep the expensive years away for as long as possible.

Posted by: skippy1999 | March 17, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Nun, Brian's point is spot-on. You want him to build up arm strength so that he can give you 5-6 years of 200+ MLB IP. If you don't control his IP per start now, and if you put him on an irregular schedule in MLB, that's harder. In Syracuse, he's the #1 guy. He starts every fifth day regardless of what else is going on. He pitches 4-5 innings even if means Josh Towers has to pitch 400 innings and put up an ERA of 12.50. He's a long-term asset - anything done in the short term to mess up his long-term development is short-sighted at best. The goal is to have a Strasburg-Zimmermann-Lannan-Olsen core SP group to make a run at the 2011 pennant. Not to have Zimmermann look like Verlander in '06, only to blow out his arm when time comes to actually contend.

I'm not saying minor IPs are less than major IPs, but I am saying that steady, developmental IPs are better than irregular MLB IPs.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 17, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Is he big and getting bigger in a Colon sense?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 4:08 PM


Unintentional comedy line du jour. Thankfully there's a player named Bartolo, or else that sentence would just sound wrong.

For the twin purposes of maintaining a consistent pitching schedule and delaying the arbitration clock, I think it makes good sense to keep Zimmermann in Syracuse for the first two months or so of the season to continue to refine his pitching and stretch out his arm (remember, he's never even pitched at AAA level), and then to pull him up in June or July to finish putting in his work for the season.

Just think of the unbelievable impact that could be achieved by adding Zimmermann to full-time status next year, along with Strasburg if he is ready to be a major contributor. Now that is a Rays-like scenario (Strasburg can play the David Price role in 2010, and Lannan, Zimmermann, and Olsen can play Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields). Dunn will be our Carlos Pena, Zimmerman our Longoria, and hello, we're in business.

Posted by: faNATic | March 17, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Is this some kind of beautiful karma for 2008? (home I'm not jinxing).

Posted by: NatsNut | March 17, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Good discussion so far regarding J-Zimm - Lots of valid arguments to either side (Majors/minors). Here's my piece to the puzzle.

When the team breaks camp, have an opening-day rotation of Lannan, Martis, Olsen & Cabrera; everybody else (Balester, Chacin, & J-Zimm) gets optioned/assigned. That's good for the first three weeks; Then the FO looks toward either Hill (from extended ST), or J-Zimm to fill the #5 slot. Keep Balester & Chacin in SYR unless one of them goes "lights-out" against AAA hitters; Only then do they get considered for a promotion.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Let me decipher Rizzo-ease ico Jordan "Ice Cold" Zimmermann:

He starts the season in Syracuse, we get our heads pounded in. Rememeber we are playing for 2010.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 17, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I think the JZ to SYR makes sense. I wouldn't rush him either. While improved, no pennant for DC this year...JZ or no JZ.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 17, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Good debate. I took Rizzo to mean they would cap his IP for the season rather than control where he throws them but you all make good points.

Another factor is starting the arb/FA clock. If he starts the year and does really well, he can be a 2+ guy and get arb after next year. If he comes up late this year, it might be until '12 that he gets to arb. They might to delay that process and cover it as "control his innings". That's all fine w/ me, part of the game. Just remember that stuff is a huge factor here too.

Posted by: Avar | March 17, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

If you want to know why Jordan Z would start the year at Syracuse, check out how the Rays handled Evan Longoria.

(Or how the Nats mishandled the other Zimmerman).

Keep him at AAA until June 1 and you put off his service time clock a full year. Bring him up sooner and he costs you more for less time. If the Nats are playing for 2010 and beyond that's the route they should take.

And, Cot's baseball contracts puts the Nats opening day 25 man payroll at $ 54,961,000. Wayyyyyy below what this market can and should support.

Posted by: traderkirk | March 17, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I dealt out a possible scenario for pitching a day or two ago - Let's take a look at the every-day part of the lineup.

Catchers: Flores is a near-lock (unless injured), with Nieves as his back-up; Montz starts in SYR, with Valentin as his back-up.

1B - "Slick" Johnson (unless traded).
2B - Hernandez has the inside track, with bench support.
3B - FotF (R. Zimmerman).
SS - C. Guzman, with AAA(SYR) support.

LF - Dunn, with bench support.
CF - Milledge, with rotational support.
RF - Dukes, with bench support.

CA - Nieves, with Valentin as a long-shot. Montz gets optioned to SYR.
IF - Belliard (unless traded), Harris (also OF). Casto=DFA'd (out of options); Gonzalez=optioned; Castillo, Cintron, Eldred, & Orr, all assigned to minors.
OF - Kearns (unless traded), Willingham (unless traded). Pena=DFA'd; Bernadina=optioned; Langerhans, Patterson, both assigned to minors.

Eight regular players plus five bench players = 13.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Seriously NJ and the post should be ashamed to take on an advertiser like this. It's pathetic.

Posted by: softballgirl | March 17, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

They could also keep Zimmerman and use him as the fifth or sixth starter and long relief and slowly break him in.

Posted by: periculum | March 17, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse


J-Zimm = long relief? NO. Either place him in SYR/HAR or on the WAS 25-man as a SP - do not screw around with a gift by using him as an up-and-down pitcher.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm OK with taking a cautious approach with ZNN by starting him in the minors,

Posted by: BobLHead | March 17, 2009 4:13 PM
BobL -- I love the ZNN nickname. I'm picturing James Earl Jones saying, "This is ZNN" everytime he takes the mound or comes to the plate.

Posted by: erocks33 | March 17, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse


Seriously NJ and the post should be ashamed to take on an advertiser like this. It's pathetic.

Posted by: softballgirl | March 17, 2009 5:24 PM
And you should be ashamed for trying to hype an un-related website on this blog.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

@BobL, erocks:

ZNN - I like it, I really, really like it!

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse reporting that Lannan will be on the bump opening day against the Marlins.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 17, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Ha! There's a back-at-ya for the Learners-are-cheap crowd -- as recently as last year, belonged to a pest control company. Obviously the Learners forked over the $100 or whatever to pry the domain name away from them. Only a matter of time before we're outspending the Yanks.

Posted by: joebleux | March 17, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Just realized I forgot to say that I really enjoyed ZNN as well.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 17, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse


The pest resigned on March 1.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 17, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Didn't see anything about the advertiser site in question here (other than the comment about it). Thanks, ad blocker.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

One way or the other, the Nationals' will be seeing players back in camp in the next 48 hours. Tonight's WBC "cage-match" pits USA against Puerto Rico in an go-forward-or-go-home match at 7:00pm.

Bring back Saul - Go USA!

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Tonight's lineups:

Puerto Rico
1) Aviles, M - SS
2) Rodriguez, I - DH
3) Beltran - CF
4) Delgado - 1B
5) Rios - RF
6) Soto - CA
7) Gonzalez, A - 3B
8) Bocachica - LF
9) Lopez, F - 2B
Pitcher - Sanchez

1) Roberts - 2B
2) Jeter - SS
3) Rollins - DH
4) Youkilis - 1B
5) Wright - 3B
6) Dunn - RF
7) DeRosa - LF
8) McCann - CA
9) Victorino - CF
Pitcher - Lilly

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Not the curse of the you-know-what match, BinM?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the lineups, though. Go, USA!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Are there other Comcast subscribers in Montgomery County who aren't able to see the WBC game on Channel 280? All I have is a blank screen. Is MLBN now a premium channel?

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 17, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Just got off the horn with Comcast-Montgomery and the friggin' WBC game is blacked out on my system.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 17, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Come on up to Frederick Co, we are getting it. Just watched Dunn strike out and D. Wright steal 2nd.

Posted by: HALjr | March 17, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

And, Cot's baseball contracts puts the Nats opening day 25 man payroll at $ 54,961,000. Wayyyyyy below what this market can and should support.

Posted by: traderkirk | March 17, 2009 5:06 PM


Trader - That $54,961,000 was the 2008 payroll so your "Wayyyyyy below what this market can and should support" is mis-stated.

2009 should be around $60,000,000 to $65,000,000 after it all shakes out for the 25 man with guaranteed contracts like WMP for $2 million and Dmitri for $5 million that probably won't make the 25 man roster.

The unknowns are going to be trades of veterans and whether Zim signs a long-term contract.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 17, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

That stinks, leetee. I was able to watch via FIOS.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

This makes me think Bergmann or Taverz will start. JZimm is too good not to be on the big league roster. Perhaps, you limit his innings by having him in the Pen, using him as a start when needed.

Posted by: richardharless | March 17, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

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