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Rizzo on playoffs, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and more

Rizzo on playoffs, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and more

Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters during Tuesday’s pre-NLDS workout. Here’s a transcript of his thoughts on the playoffs, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner an much more.

Will Daniel Murphy (glute injury) be ready for Game 1? 

"I think he's going to be ready for Game 1 and we feel confident about that."

If he returns, will he play a different position? 

"No I think we're going to play it pretty straight up unless he shows us something different. I think that we're confident that he's ready to play and gonna be the old Murphy."

Any expectations for Stephen Strasburg to pitch if Nats advance past NLDS? 

"If he's ready to pitch, he will pitch. That's as far as I can go with that statement right now. He's in his return to throw program and if he's ready to pitch if we're fortunate enough to beyond here, he'll go pitch."

Will the lineup be shifted around to accommodate a struggling Ryan Zimmerman?

"Those are lineup questions, ask Dusty. He's an important player for us this postseason and just about every time we've taken the field. I have all the confidence in the world in Ryan Zimmerman. The bigger the game gets, the more important he is for me." 

Does this time around have a different feel compared to the 2012 and 2014 playoff appearances? 

"I think the experience helps from '12 and '14. We got two more playoff experiences under our belt. It doesn't feel any different to me. I'm fired up for playoff action. You work about seven months to get to this point and we're excited to be here and we're playing a really good team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, but we're a really good team too. And we're poised to take them on and I can't wait."

Did you think Trea Turner would be this good? 

"Yes, I did think he would be this good. (laughs) We traded for him for a reason. We really liked him. Our scouts did a great job identifying him as a player of interest in the Padres organization. We developed very quickly but very well in our minor league system, and he's come up here with a great attitude and a willingness to learn and obviously a skill set that plays up here."

How would you describe Lucas Giolito’s first year in the big leagues? 

"I think it was a great learning experience for him. You're talking about a young front end prospect. And now you transfer from top prospect in major league baseball to major league pitcher, there's a lot of trials and tribulations that go along to it. And we've got great confidence in him. He's gonna be a big part of us for a long time."

What does Reynaldo Lopez bring to bullpen? 

"He gives us a power right handed pitcher that has swing and miss stuff. He's a guy that obviously can be extended out if need be. He's a young kid that's going from prospect status to major league status."

When constructing bullpen, does matchup possibilities matter more than a pitcher’s overall effectiveness? 

"It's going to be both. The matchup part of it is important, but the performance part of it also important. You're not gonna take a lesser player just because he has one set of skills like left handed if you're not performing. It's well documented that left handed pitching is important here, but you need to have quality pitches because I've seen [the Dodgers] many many times, live in person and on film for countless hours, that if you don't have stuff and you don't perform, they can beat you left handed or right handed."

What impact can catcher Pedro Severino have in the playoffs? 

"He's one of our two catchers, so he's impacting us. He's going to handle a staff that he doesn't know real well. He's going to be put into positions that he's never been in before. He's gone from prospect to big leaguer to playoff catcher, so he's going to impact us quite greatly."

Impact of losing Wilson Ramos?

"You lost an All-Star bat in the lineup. As a guy that hit .300, that has power, that drives in runs, you've lot a great asset for you. It makes your lineup less long, less impactful. Like I've always said, nobody cares beyond this clubhouse, nobody feeling sorry for us and time for Lobi and Sebi to pick up the slack and play as well as they can play. And it's time for the other guys in the lineup to step up and make up for the loss an All-Star hitter."

Is the team willing to pinch-hit earlier in the postseason?

"It's playoff baseball, it's a five-game series. And you're going to pinch hit for whoever you have to pinch hit for. You're pinch run for whoever you have to pinch run for. You're going to have to do things that are unexpected. Every game you play here is a Game 7 type of scenario. It's win tonight, we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.  "

What makes you think the team can advance past NLDS this year? 

"I love the team we have. We're a good, well-rounded team. We compete against anybody in baseball. You don't win 95 games by accident and we're looking forward to Friday to take on a great Dodger team, but a team that we feel we can beat."

Has Dusty Baker been everything you had hoped for? 

"And more. He's been great. I can't say enough about what he's done in the clubhouse. As far as a tactician and an X's and O's guy, he's been great. The combination of Maddux and Baker in the dugout handling the pitching, and [Chris] Speier handling the infield, Davey Lopes. Dusty brings that great array of coaches with him and it's been outstanding."

Possible bullpen role for Strasburg if he comes back? 

"We have a protocol in place as it's well document. When he's ready to pitch competitively in games and can help us win in a series, he will pitch."

Questions and quotes edited for clarity.

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Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

With Trea Turner at shortstop and Starlin Castro at second base, the Nationals have two reliable veterans at the two positions Carter Kieboom has always played. 

So now, the Nationals' top prospect is competing for the starting third base job with seasoned veteran Asdrubal Cabrera. Once one of the best shortstops in baseball, Cabrera has fallen off defensively and has limited range nowadays, though he was still a key contributor to the Nationals' World Series championship in 2019. 

Instead of viewing Kieboom as just his competition and doing everything he can to win the job, Cabrera has taken on the role of mentor for the 22-year-old infielder.

“(Cabrera) takes ground balls with (Kieboom) every day,” Martinez said, according to MASN's Pete Kerzel. “I’ve asked him, ‘Hey, you need to take ground balls at second, too, and short sometimes.’ Religiously, for the purpose of being with Carter, he stands with Carter, helping him with his throws, making sure he understands that footwork is important when he’s throwing. ... He talks to him all the time about a bunch of different things, how to play positions, not take your at-bats to the field. He’s been unbelievable with him, he really has. It’s been good for Carter.”

Kieboom has struggled with errors through the early days of spring ball, which is to be expected considering he's a young player at a position he's never played regularly on the professional level. While a bunch of errors in February are nothing to get too concerned over, Kieboom will have to cut those down in March if he wants to win the job. 

Cabrera is seen as the backup plan at third if Kieboom can't secure the job during spring training. The 34-year-old is entering his 14th season and would probably be better maximized if he didn't have to play every day. 

If Kieboom isn't ready though, it wouldn't be the best idea for the Nationals to force it. So over the course of the next three weeks, we'll see just how much Cabrera can help the youngster. 

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Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

During Phillies spring training on Friday, Jayson Werth visited his old team and former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper. It just so happened he had arrived on the one-year anniversary of Bryce Harper deciding to leave Washington to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies. 

Werth spent six seasons sharing an outfield with Harper but before his days in Washington, he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. His play in Philadelphia earned him a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals in 2011. 

Harper's exit from DC is a sore subject for Nationals fans, even though a World Series championship definitely helped numb the pain. Werth explained in a story by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury that he always had a hunch Harper could end up in Philly. 

"I always thought this would be a possible destination for him, even way back when, for a bunch of reasons," Werth said. "Kind of where the team was, the money was right, the owner was right, the town's right.

"But more than anything else," Werth added with widening eyes, "Citizens Bank Park is just an awesome place to hit. We always talked about that."

Werth clarified he doesn't want anyone to think he was pushing Harper to Philadelphia, just that as players they naturally had plenty of conversations about other ballparks. And it's hard to argue with that. 

Before he played a single game for the Phillies, Harper was Citizens Bank Park's all-time leader in slugging percentage. In 2019, Harper hit the second-most homers of his career (35) and his second-highest slugging percentage as well.

Werth even enjoyed a nice bump hitting in Philadelphia. During his time with the Nats, Werth his .291 with a .922 OPS to go along with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 52 trips to Citizens Bank Park. 

Between the 81 games in a hitters ballpark and a $330 million contract without the deferred payments the Nationals reportedly offered to Harper last year, it makes a decent amount of sense he decided to take his talents north. 

But hey, the Nationals won a World Series the following season, and in epic fashion I might add, while there's no guarantee the Phillies get there any time soon. I mean, have you seen their pitching staff outside of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler?

So Bryce is happy and Nats fans are happy. Everyone wins, right? 

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