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Rizzo on Papelbon grievance: "It's not personal"

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Rizzo on Papelbon grievance: "It's not personal"

NASHVILLE — The Nationals say they were aware of Jonathan Papelbon's grievance against the club the day after they suspended him in late September and insist it doesn't change their plans for the controversial closer.

"That's business. It's not personal," general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday at the Winter Meetings, adding: "It was something we've known about for a long time."

Rizzo wouldn't go into specifics about the actual grievance process, which is expected to carry over into next spring, but spoke of Papelbon as though he remains in the club's 2016 plans.

"Suffice it to say, Pap's a part of this team," he said. "He's on our roster. He's a really good, late-inning pitcher. He's had a great career. We're glad he's on the club and can't wait to see him closing out games again."

That by no means guarantees Papelbon actually finds himself in a Nationals uniform come spring training or Opening Day. Rizzo did acknowledge there has been interest from other teams in the right-hander but stressed he would only deal him if presented with an offer that makes sense strictly from a baseball standpoint.

The same theory applies to Drew Storen, who was bumped from the closer's role when Papelbon was acquired in July and has been unhappy with his situation since.

"We're not running anybody out of town," Rizzo said. "We like the bullpen that we have. Last year, we had the sixth-best bullpen in the National League. It was better than league-average. It didn't end well for us. They pitched poorly down the stretch. But there's a lot of good, talented players in there, and we don't have to move anybody if we don't want to. There's no money constrictions on us. We're going to put the best bullpen that we can out there, and the best 25-man roster that we can."

The Nationals finished the season with the NL's seventh-best bullpen but their collective relief ERA was 3.40 before the Papelbon trade, 3.55 after it. They also ranked last in the NL with a 47.6 percent save conversion rate after Papelbon was acquired.

Asked if he believes Papelbon and Storen could coexist another season as teammates, Rizzo responded: "They're both highly talented, extremely competitive, very good relief pitchers. If that's your eighth-ninth inning guys, we feel comfortable with that."

Papelbon's grievance is over the fact the Nationals withheld his pay during the 4-game suspension handed down by the club after the closer got into a dugout altercation with Bryce Harper that included him choking his MVP teammate. Given the relatively minimal amount of money involved — roughly $288,000 of the $13 million Papelbon made this year — it seems fair to question whether this is a move by the player to try to be released. If that happened, the Nationals would be responsible for Papelbon's entire $11 million salary in 2016, making him a free agent.

MORE NATIONALS: WASHINGTON CONSIDERING FORMER MVP

"I don't see that at all," Rizzo said. "This isn't personal. This isn't about the Nationals against Jonathan Papelbon. This is something that's a business move. The union does this routinely. It's not our first grievance that we've had. Most of the time, these things are done professionally and amicably."

Rizzo said there hasn't been any contact between the Nationals and Papelbon since season's end, aside from "a couple of the coaches reaching out to him and a couple of players reaching out to him."

The Nationals face an unusual dilemma at these meetings, both seeking to add experienced late-inning relievers while also listening to offers on two experienced late-inning relievers. While it seems unlikely the club would acquire another prominent reliever this winter and still keep both Storen and Papelbon, Rizzo insisted that "whatever way we can improve the bullpen, we'd certainly look into it."

The Nationals made a strong push for veteran setup man Darren O'Day over the last week, according to sources, ultimately losing out when the Orioles offered a fourth guaranteed year. That deal hasn't actually been finalized yet, but sources said it still is expected to be wrapped up within the next few days and the Nationals would only be a fallback option for O'Day if the deal with Baltimore somehow fell through just shy of the finish line.

The Nationals to date have sat on the sidelines while other clubs have locked up several relievers to deals of at least three guaranteed years and at least $22 million, including O'Day, Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria. That's more years and more money than traditionally has been given to non-closers, but it appears to be a fact of life right now.

"The market is what the market bears," Rizzo said. "Those are talented pitchers coming off good seasons. It's supply and demand. The supply was short and the demand is high."

The Nationals have added one reliever to a major-league contract so far this winter: Oliver Perez, who signed a 2-year, $7 million deal. Rizzo said he was intrigued by the veteran left-hander's ability to resurrect his career as a matchup specialist in recent years.

"He's a veteran presence," the GM said. "He's had two really, really good seasons. He's a person that knows several of the players and will fit into the clubhouse, and gives you a really good, left-on-left guy. And if he falls back to where he was two years ago, he was good against both sides of the plate. He gives us a good, veteran arm to go along with some of our good, young, electric arms. We feel it will be a good fit for us."

The Nationals hoped to retain veteran Craig Stammen after a lost season in which he made five appearances before having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his arm. But the two sides couldn't agree on terms of a contract that would have been for less than the $1.8 million Stammen would have been guaranteed through arbitration, so the club decided not to tender him a contract last week.

"Craig has been a great competitor for years for us," Rizzo said. "But the fact that the price tag was what it was, knowing that he's just starting to throw, unsure about where his health is going to be in spring training, was the reason that we non-tendered him. We tried to re-sign him as we non-tendered him, and it just didn't work out."

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Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

The Washington Nationals were in hopes of winning their final matchup against the Cardinals today after yesterday's win.

Here are the most recent news and notes.

Players Notes:

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer allowed five runs in Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals. This is only the second time this season out of his past 20 starts that he allowed more than a single home run.

First baseman Matt Adams was seen practicing his swing Wednesday morning for the first time since he sprained his AC joint in his left shoulder last week. He’s expected to hopefully return in the closing week of the regular season. 

Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin struck out 11 batters on Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, but he also allowed two unearned runs in their 6-2 win.

Injuries:

C Spencer Kieboom: Elbow, 2020

C Kurt Suzuki: Elbow, day-to-day

RP Joe Ross: Arm, day-to-day

RP Roenis Elias: Hamstring, possible late September

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely

1B Matt Adams: Shoulder, day-to-day

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, 2020

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Friday: 9/20: Nationals @ Marlins, 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Saturday 9/21: Nationals @ Marlins, 6:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Sunday 9/22: Nationals @ Marlins, 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Source: Rotoworld

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Mark DeRosa reminisces on 2012 Nationals, thinks they could have won the World Series

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Mark DeRosa reminisces on 2012 Nationals, thinks they could have won the World Series

Former Washington utility player Mark DeRosa believes the 2012 Nationals could have won the World Series if they had stuck with the status quo and kept Stephen Strasburg in the rotation. 

DeRosa joined Tim Shovers and Chase Hughes on the latest edition of the Nationals Talk podcast, where he looked back on the historic 2012 Washington team and season.

LISTEN BELOW TO THE INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

During spring training, DeRosa knew the Nationals were going to be special that year. He saw how talented the roster was after the first few practices when he saw the likes of Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, a just-drafted Anthony Rendon and a rookie Bryce Harper. Between the veteran leaders and the youngsters, DeRosa knew the team Mike Rizzo crafted could be something special. 

"The way Mike Rizzo built that roster," DeRosa said, "We were going to be able to sustain, because...some of the [older] guys were going to be able to kind of embrace the younger guys and tell them how good they were and...hopefully that would lead them to some more confidence." 

Their hot start to the season also helped boost the Nationals' confidence that year and allowed young players and veterans alike to relax. They won 14 of their first 18 games to start the 2012 season and finished with a 98-64 record.

So, when Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals came around, the sting from that loss hurt all the more. Even for DeRosa, who described his role on the team as something akin to a "glorified bench coach," the loss was the worst and most devastating of his 16 years in the majors. 

DeRosa was adamant that there wasn't a cloud hanging over the team because they pulled Strasburg. That plan had been in action since Spring Training, and the team and organization were going to stick to it no matter what. 

"I do think we win the World Series with [Strasburg] in the starting rotation," DeRosa said. "He was the best pitcher in the National League that year in my opinion. He was dominant. He was untouchable. When you take that away from a team going into the postseason, it can't help but hurt a little bit."

DeRosa also had some key words about Harper, who he felt lucky to have gotten to know was a rookie. 

"There wasn't a point in time during the 2012 season of me being around [Harper] that he ever acted like he deserved any different treatment from anyone on that roster," DeRosa said.

Oh, and about Werth's Game 4 walk-off: it meant as much to the team as it did to the fans, if not more.

"For [Werth] to have that moment...it justified a lot of things," DeRosa said. "It was his moment to have." 

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