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Mike Rizzo on the Nationals right field situation

For the most part this season, the Nationals have used Willie Harris, Justin Maxwell and Roger Bernadina to replace Elijah Dukes in right field. While the Nationals have received minimal offensive production from their right fielders this season, General Manager Mike Rizzo said he is content with the position and expressed his hope to find out what, exactly, the Nationals have in Bernadina and Maxwell, who was just sent down to Class AAA. Rizzo expressed no desire to upgrade the position through an acquisition from outside the organization.

"We're certainly going to give our young players a chance to win the job on an everyday basis," Rizzo said. "We've seen a lot of good things in Roger. [Maxwell], when he was up here had flashes of good stuff. We feel good about the position. We're going to find out what these players can do, not only for the rest of 2010, but for beyond."

Nationals right fielders have hit .167 this season with a combined .630 on-base plus slugging percentage, which ranks them last and 28th, respectively. Their defense has been improved, particularly when Harris or Maxwell play. Harris has a 24.3 UZR/150 as a right fielder, while Maxwell had a 31.5 UZR/150 before being sent down.

"From where we came from, we think we have a better chance of winning games with the outfield situation that we have now than we had in the past," Rizzo said. "We play much better defense, and the productivity hasn't fallen off."

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 10, 2010; 6:38 PM ET
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I think production from RF has been a problem. Nonetheless, I agree with Rizzo in general terms. We have an improved team and it's fun to be in contention, right now. I doubt 2010 is going to be our year, although it's clear we're getting closer and "the plan" is starting to bear fruit. Part of the plan is bringing our own players to the big leagues. I'm content to see what Bernadina and Maxwell can do for us. Patience is a virtue, especially this year.

Posted by: grforbes | May 10, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

The productivity hasn't fallen off? Seriously? It's disappointing that Rizzo is satisified with having the composite worst in the majors in right field. Surely there's an alternative out there who wouldn't sacrifice too much defense. Come on.

Posted by: Section222 | May 10, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

It's early, and the team is overachieving. The right fielders have certainly saved some runs, and at least one game, with great defense.

That said, there is no reason for the Nats to be satisfied with sub-par production for long. I am sure there is a limit to how long the group will be able to flail. I would guess that the first option would be to give the job to Willie Harris full-time, and then the next would be to get someone from outside. Kevin Mench might even get a chance. As I have said before, though, the first option would be to release Willy Tavares.

News has come out that Mike Daniel was released from Syracuse, which I guess opens a spot there. I am curious about who gets to move up to replace him.


Posted by: kevincostello | May 10, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Sports executive talk is sports executive talk, but production hasn't falling off? They're going to find out what they have with a guy who is back in AAA? Better just to stay quiet than this stuff.

Posted by: markfromark | May 10, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

If you comparing the production to Kearns, then it is an upgrade.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 10, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Put me down with Tom8: No Austin ".195" Kearns, and we're four games over .500.
We were never -- repeat, NEVER -- four games over .500 with the AK strikeout machine in the lineup.

And, contrary to Manny and Bobby Sunshine on TV, the combination of Bernadina-Harris-Maxy has been just as good defensive as AK. They also have just as many Gold Gloves as he does: zero.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | May 10, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Here is an unorthodox solution to the lack of production in right field: Put Pudge there part time and use Nieves at the plate more.

Posted by: gmuhokie2009 | May 11, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

unorthodox? Not to blast you, but why move the production problem to catcher? What happens if someone gets hurt? Pudge won't hit this well all season and his overall numbers may compare well for a catcher but will be horrible for a RF. I think Rizzo is still hoping someone steps up and if they are in the race @ the end of July and production hasn't improved, we'll see a move then. He just doesn't want to show his young guys that he has any lack of confidence in their abilities. Our fan base, not so much and rightly so.

Posted by: smirkman | May 11, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Adam: Take a look at what Willie Harris has done against Right handed pitching his last 1000 plate appearances (2007 - 2009) and this year. The man gets on base and hits with OK pop. In the three prior seasons, never an OBP worse than .350 and never a SLG below .400. wRC+ of 112, 104, and 108, which is fine for a right fielder with normal defense. Even with his batting average, he is pounding the ball and getting on via walks (wRC+ 102). Willie is a clear plus fielder, so he is above average when in right. The only reason there is a "right field" offense problem is that most pitchers are righties and we have been trotting out guys who have not hit righties in J-Max (0-11 At bats) and Bernie.

J-Max was very effective against lefties - .267, with > .500 OBP and SLG. That was before glasses.

It's fine to see what we have in Bernie and J-Max. Maybe we don't want Bernie just to take Taveras's role because someone thinks he's better than that. But the only reason there is a right field problem offensively is because the management is not out to put the best line up combo out there.

By the way - the solution is not to play Willie Harris full time. He's only hit lefties well one year - 2008. Maybe he can again, but the time for that experiment is not in his last year of his contract and when he is over 30.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 11, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The combined stats of Max-Bern-Har reminds just how much Rizzo/Riggs thought Dukes was bad clubhouse chemistry.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | May 11, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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