Following a loss on Wednesday, the Nationals were 5-5-2 during the exhibition season. MLB.com caught up with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to talk about John Lannan, Bryce Harper and the team's center-field situation.
MLB.com: Are you actively trying to trade John Lannan?
Mike Rizzo: The reports are coming from the media. We are not actively shopping John Lannan. I'm receiving calls about him. We are going to be open-minded about it. We realize the position that we are in, and it's the state of the team. We are going to make a smart decision based on our needs. If a trade helps our ballclub in the present and in the future, we'll certainly consider it. We are not going to make a trade for the sake of making a trade.
MLB.com: Everyone is talking about Lannan's remaining Minor League option. Would you send him down if the team had enough pitching in the Major Leagues?
Rizzo: We have to see where we are at during that time. He has an option. He is a Major League pitcher, so to send a very good Major League pitcher to the Minor Leagues doesn't make a lot of sense. But he does have an option. We are going to utilize all the tools that we have to put the best team on the field. But that is a long way away. We have to see where we are at. We have 21 games left [in Spring Training].
MLB.com: Bryce Harper told MLB Network analyst Jon Heyman on Tuesday that he probably would not make the Opening Day roster because he has missed games with a calf injury. Have the Nationals made a decision on Harper's future?
Rizzo: Of course, we haven't made a decision. There are 21 games left in Spring Training. The injury was a setback for him, as far as costing him days, at-bats and his learning curve. But we have a lot of time left in Spring Training. We are going to do what's best for him and his development. We'll see where it takes us toward the end of Spring Training.
MLB.com: How do you think Harper has done so far?
Rizzo: I think he has done well. He has figured out a way to get his hits. If you ask him, he will say he certainly hasn't performed the way he expects to perform. But he has his hits, and he is showing improvements in other aspects -- defensively, running the bases and that type of stuff. We know he is ultra-aggressive in every phase of the game. He is trying to, and starting to, control that aggression and make great baseball decisions.
MLB.com: Since you have arrived in Spring Training, who has been your biggest surprise?
Rizzo: That is a tough question. We have had a lot of good things happen for us. The totality of talented players has really been a breath of fresh air for us. We have guys that we sent out in the first round of cuts that are ultra-talented players. That in itself shows where we are as a franchise, then as an organization. The great plays by a lot of the players don't come as a surprise to me. I like where we are right now. I like how prepared we are to take the next step. As we have said in the past, the wins, losses and batting average, those don't have any importance to me. I need to see players preparing and getting ready.
MLB.com: The Nationals have some center fielders -- Eury Perez and Cory Brown -- who want to stay in the big leagues. How impressive have they been? I know Brown was sent down to the Minor Leagues on Monday.
Rizzo: Corey, I think, is healthy again and has gotten back to where we thought he was when we made the trade for him. He is an extremely skilled player. He has great tools. He can run, he can throw, he has power from the left side of the plate. He can patrol center field well. He took a step backward because he was hurt and couldn't perform. But he really showed that he could be in the big leagues.
Eury Perez is just scratching the surface. He is one of our guys that we feel down the road could be our long-term answer in center field. He is a guy that is going to go back to the Minor Leagues and work on his craft. Hopefully, one of these guys clicks to the point where we feel confident that this is our answer in center field.
MLB.com: Do you think these guys are talented enough to where you don't have to trade for a center fielder?
Rizzo: We feel we have in-house options for our long-term center fielder. Now, they may be a year away, two years, 2 1/2 years away. But we feel that with the Browns, the Perezes, the [Brian] Goodwins and the [Michael] Taylors, we have at least one guy that is going to take the next step and become an answer for us in center.
MLB.com: What do you think is the Nationals' biggest need right now?
Rizzo: We have to figure out what the bottom of our roster is going to look like. That all-important bench player. Who is the right fit for the 24th, 25th player on this team. I think we need to find those last couple of players on the roster and the competition that it brings.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.