Nats Reward Rizzo With GM Job

Rizzo ready to lead Nats into future

What a week for Mike Rizzo. What a week for the Washington Nationals.

After more than five months of doing the work of Washington's general manager -- including signing No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen
Strasburg to a record deal just a few days ago -- Rizzo is getting the big title, too.

Rizzo, the acting general manager since spring training, was still technically an assistant GM. Now he will be the team's GM and senior vice president of baseball operations, a promotion the Nationals announced at a news conference Thursday.

When making the announcement, team president Stan Kasten said Rizzo had just black mark on his resume that needed to be addressed.

"It's never good to put on your job application, 'I just gave away the most money in history to a draft pick,'" Kasten joked, referring to the contract signed by Strasburg. "Fortunately, the guy who hired him just did the same thing."

With Strasburg signed, the Nationals hope to have their ace for the future. But Rizzo isn't satisfied.

"In the immortal words of Stan Kasten -- pitching, pitching and pitching," he said, adding that he wants to add a workhorse veteran starter and that he likes to put speed up the middle of the diamond and "mashers" on the corners.

Rizzo was given the general manager's duties shortly after Jim Bowden abruptly resigned as Washington's GM on March 1.

"The things he's done since he's been on board have been really good, and they've made us a better team," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after the 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. "It's not our place to decide what people in the front office are here or there, but to have him around, I think, would be good."

Rizzo joined the Nationals as assistant GM in July 2006, after seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, primarily as director of scouting. He was a minor league player for four years and is widely regarded as a strong evaluator of talent.

Giving him the full-fledged GM job lends a measure of stability to a franchise that rarely has enjoyed any, dating to its days as the Montreal Expos. Indeed, one of Rizzo's key decisions in the coming months will be what to do about the manager: Jim Riggleman was given that job on an interim basis when Manny Acta was fired last month.

Rizzo's advancement is part of a series of significant events jammed into the small space of a handful of days.

As Monday turned to Tuesday, Rizzo concluded talks on a $15.1 million contract with Strasburg, the hard-throwing right-hander
from San Diego State. Now comes word of Rizzo's new post. And, on Friday, Strasburg will be introduced to fans at a pregame news conference on the Nationals Park field.

It was Rizzo who was on the phone with agent Scott Boras, negotiating down to the wire on the Strasburg deal. It was Rizzo who was put in front of reporters to discuss that contract and how it was completed on time. It was Rizzo who was shown on the outfield scoreboard at the team's stadium before Tuesday's game, explaining the Strasburg deal.

That was the latest piece Rizzo added to the organization. He already started the task of what he likes to say is a 'building' effort -- not a rebuilding -- for a perennially last-place team on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season.

He reconfigured the disastrous bullpen Bowden had assembled. Rizzo also acquired new leadoff hitter and center fielder Nyjer Morgan in a June 30 trade with Pittsburgh, a move generally credited with spurring Washington's recent run of better play.

"He's shown both aggressiveness and patience with the makeup of our roster," Riggleman said before Wednesday's game, "and I think the result is we're playing better baseball because he's solidified our roster."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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