The Nationals are off to a slow start during this exhibition season, losing their first eight games and allowing 82 runs.
Before Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., MLB.com caught up with manager Jim Riggleman to talk about the Nats' slow start and three rookies -- Ian Desmond, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen -- who have already made an impact on the team.
MLB.com: Before Wednesday's game, they Nationals lost their first seven games of the spring. What is your biggest concern about this team right now?
Jim Riggleman: You know, you hate to get caught up in wins and losses since its Spring Training, but losses wear on you. I don't care if it's Spring Training or what it is. You don't want to lose ballgames, but you can't manage the game to try to win ballgames. You are really not going to do a lot to stop a rally. You are not going to pinch-hit. You are not going to take pitchers out of the game in situations where they are not having a good day. You just have to fly through it and, hopefully, the next day, you get a combination of players who can put together a win. To this point, it hasn't happened. We are not happy about losing ballgames, not even in Spring Training.
MLB.com: Do you think it could get better once you make your first round of cuts?
Riggleman: Yeah, but every team has gone through it. That's kind of an even playing field. Everybody is doing that. That's not an excuse for losing. But I look forward to getting a club down to a more manageable number where we could have more of our guys -- especially pitchers -- who we know are going to end up on the club with us.
MLB.com: The biggest talk has been the pitching. How can you and pitching coach Steve McCatty stop the bleeding?
Riggleman: In a short period of time, you have a lot pitchers coming from different organizations. They are getting a shot to show what they can do. Some of them -- more than others --- have a realistic chance of making the ballclub. You really are not going to change what pitchers do. They are trying to impress the Major League staff and win a job on the club. So they can't make a lot of variations on what has worked for then before. The only people who have the luxury of tinkering and experimenting are the ones who know they have a spot on the club. That's a dilemma for a pitcher who is struggling, because he can't afford to change course in the middle of the stream with what he has always done.
MLB.com: So far rookies such Storen, Strasburg and Desmond are playing well. If they continue to play well, would you put them on the Opening Day roster?
Riggleman: I certainly have an open mind about it. I think Desmond was very impressive last September and he has come in doing the same thing in March. He is definitely making a strong case to be on the ballclub.
By signing early and pitching in professional baseball, it enhances Storen's chances of making the ballclub.
2010 Spring Training - Washington Nationals
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Spring Training Info
With Strasburg, like Storen, it's going to be more of a organizational decision. That's going to come from all the way at the top -- from ownership down through myself and Steve McCatty. It's just not going to be about is he impressive in Spring Training?
MLB.com: What you are saying is, you want Strasburg to develop before he reaches the big leagues. True?
Riggleman: The development is part of it. It's probably more about adapting to pitching every fifth day and the work that it takes in between starts -- see how he recovers from that over a period of time. Again, I'm open-minded about it. The development part is important, but he so well-developed. It's probably the other aspects of it.
MLB.com: Are you surprised that Desmond, Strasburg and Storen are forcing the issue with the Nationals?
Riggleman: Not at all. They come as advertised. Everything we have seen out here has been reported to us by all of our people who have seen them. In Desmond's case, I've seen it. Storen and Strasburg are pretty much what our scouts have been saying.
MLB.com: I heard that Nyjer Morgan apologized to you on Tuesday for sliding head first the previous day.
Riggleman: Yeah, he came in and said that. I know sliding head first is going to happen at times. If it's instinctive and that's what takes place, do it, because I don't want him in between and hurt his leg.
On the other side of it, I'm very happy with his two stolen bases. Not only did he slide feet first, he went in hard. I love that. I loved watching Lou Brock slide. He would make the shortstop think again about sticking that knee to block him. It happened Tuesday with Nyjer. He didn't get in there intentionally late. That makes the infielders around the league realize you better get that tag down or get out of there.
MLB.com: Going forward, what's ahead for you and the Nationals?
Riggleman: I think there is a bright future here for the Nationals. I certainly want to be a part of it. We really try to shy away from using the words patience and future. Our fans already have been very patient. We want to try and win a lot of ballgames for our fans this year. But we know the farm system is strengthening. We really had a good Draft last year. We are looking for another good Draft this year, while building and stockpiling talent. That's what it's all about: Who has the most talent is going to win the most games. If you don't have attention to details, you will never win as many games as you should. It's going to show -- as we make some more cuts here -- that there is a lot of talent here.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.