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Mike Rizzo is not changing his expectations despite Nationals' bad start

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Mike Rizzo is not changing his expectations despite Nationals' bad start

The Nationals are still losing and frustrations are mounting.

Following last night's familiar 6-2 loss to the New York Mets, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo joined the Sports Junkies for his usual Wednesday morning appearance on the show.

"It's the worst we’ve played probably since we’ve come off an expansion-type of a roster," Rizzo said on the Junkies.

After last night's loss, the Nats are 16-25, nine games under .500. According to NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas, the last time the Nats have had this dismal of a record was Sept. 8, 2011.

Despite all of that, Rizzo's expectations of winning have not changed.

"Expectations are high," Rizzo said. "I'm not settling on lowering my expectations. My expectations are still: win this division, the National League East, which is a tough division, it’s gonna be nip and tuck the whole way, and go deep in the playoffs. I think we have the roster, when healthy, to do so and I think we have the personnel to be a really competitive team in the National League."

In addition to being nine games under .500, the Nationals have a chronic issue of dropping the first game of a series. They are 2-12 in series openers.

"First days of series are often the busiest day of the preparation for that series," Rizzo said. "If you don’t win the first game of the series, it obviously curtails your chances of winning the series and, you know, that’s our goal, to win each and every series."

When asked if the team has had a "kick in the butt" kind of meeting, Rizzo said they have.

"I know they had a team meeting just recently in Milwaukee and I was around and I did not attend the meeting, purposely didn’t attend the meeting," Rizzo said. "That’s their clubhouse and that’s their sanctum and they’ve got to figure it out between themselves and you know I'm there for support, I'm always around, they know where to find me. I'm very accessible, and I communicate with the players a lot, but those type of things are best laid for the managers and the coaching staff and the players to kind of figure it out for themselves.”

In terms of generating any type of offense, the Nationals are in the top three for strikeouts as a team.

"The strikeout number is alarming," Rizzo said.

However, there may be a silver lining on the horizon. The Nats just got Anthony Rendon back from the IL and Trea Turner is rehabbing his broken finger at shortstop for the Potomac Nationals. Rizzo says he expects the team to re-evaluate Turner on Thursday.

"To me, it's a championship caliber roster when we’re healthy and when we’re playing well and we just haven’t played well throughout the early portion of the season this year and we’ve got to find ways to win until we get all of our guys back," Rizzo said.

The Nationals hope to take game No. 2 of the Mets series Wednesday night with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch at home.

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Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

One of two flights chartered by Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic to Miami carried multiple players that tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Thursday evening. None of the more than 160 players and staff members were tested by MLB for the disease prior to flying.

Among the passengers on those flights—which flew out of Santo Domingo on July 1—were Nationals players Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad as well as two of their prospects in Luis Garcia and Joan Adon. All six players are isolating in D.C. and one of them, The Post reported, tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening July 2.

The Nationals announced Sunday that two players had tested positive upon arriving to D.C. and were in isolation. In addition to the six players who flew from the D.R., Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Roenis Elías were absent from practice at Nationals Park this week. Although Castro returned to the field Thursday, Washington has yet to give any updates on the remaining players not cleared for play.

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO SAYS ‘I COULDN’T LIVE WITH MYSELF IF WE WENT ON HAPHAZARDLY’

“We’re still waiting to hear about those other guys,” manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “But they’re working diligently, MLB and our medical staff, to get those guys cleared. Hopefully, we’ll get them soon.”

The lack of testing prior to those flights was a result of insufficient resources in the D.R. to accommodate the number of people who were to board, The Post reported. The news comes three days after the Nationals opted to cancel practice due to test results taking over 72 hours to come in. General manager Mike Rizzo issued a strong statement that afternoon stressing the importance of quick testing.

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“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo wrote. “We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.  Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp.  Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab.  Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

MLB’s 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 23, when the Nationals are set to host the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

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Could more Nationals opt-out of 2020 season as Opening Day draws near?

Could more Nationals opt-out of 2020 season as Opening Day draws near?

The Nationals begin defending their World Series title on July 23 against the New York Yankees. Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have both opted out of the 2020 season. Could there be more? The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast believes it’s likely. 

“I do wonder once they get into this routine if some players will say ‘Nope, this isn’t for me,’” Nick Ashooh asked. “I have a feeling we’ll probably see some players bow out in the first couple weeks of the season.” 

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle has continued to voice his concerns about the 60-game season. Doolittle told reporters on July 5 that "I think I'm planning on playing. But at any point, if I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health, with all the things we have to think about and this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I'll opt-out."

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Doolittle’s wife, Eireann Dolan, has a chronic lung condition and as NBC Sports Washington Nats reporter Todd Dybas pointed out on the podcast, when at home, Doolittle will not be living with his wife during the season. 

Chase Hughes noted that road games could be a cause for concern for players. Hughes said they could be “feeling that anxiety when you’re at home and on the road,” especially if you have young children in your house.  

RELATED: DAVEY MARTINEZ SAYS WORLD SERIES RINGS WERE ‘DEFINITELY WORTH THE WAIT’

Opening Day for the Nationals is only two weeks away and many unknowns still remain. Could more players opt-out in 2020? It’s possible and definitely worth keeping an eye on as Opening Day approaches. 

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