07/13/09 6:00 PM ET
Riggleman happy to manage near home
New Nationals skipper will work to improve team's defense
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
As a kid growing up in the 1950 and 60s, Riggleman grew up a Senators fan and often went to Griffith Stadium to watch them play.
On Monday, Riggleman, 56, received his wish to manage close to his hometown, when the Nationals named him their interim manager, replacing Manny Acta. Riggleman, who was the bench coach during the first half of the season, received the word of his promotion early Monday morning.
"Jim Riggleman is a terrific baseball person," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He's a baseball guy from the old school. He's a guy with nine seasons of experience as a Major League manager, and he's a guy that we -- I -- respect greatly. ... He certainly will be a candidate to be the long-term answer as the manager."
It's the second straight year Riggleman will become an interim skipper. He had the same role with the Mariners in 2008. His task now is to improve a Nationals team that had a 26-61 record during the first half of the season, the worst in baseball.
"I think myself, the other coaches and the players -- I think we all let Manny down. Nobody wanted to see this happen," Riggleman said via phone. "Once it happens, somebody has to be a manager of the club, and they asked me to do it on an interim basis. I like to manage. If I could name a place to manage, No. 1, it would be right here at home, where I grew up.
"It's an interim position. That makes it a little tenuous. I know Mike Rizzo isn't locked in as a general manager. Both of us are going to be fighting for our jobs and try to push the players and help get something out of them that we weren't able to get out of them before."
This will be Riggleman's fourth managerial job, after leading the Padres, Cubs and Mariners. He has a 522-652 career record. His best season as a skipper was in 1998, when he guided the Cubs to the playoffs after they won a Wild Card tiebreaker over the Giants. The team lost to the Braves in the National League Division Series, 3-0.
Riggleman is scheduled to have a workout at Nationals Park on Wednesday evening. He has announced that Alberto Gonzalez will see more playing time at second base. The organization wants to find out if Gonzalez is an everyday player.
Riggleman's biggest goal is to improve the team's defense, which ranks 30th in the Major Leagues and has already made 82 errors this season. Riggleman said he plans to have infield and outfield drills before games.
"The pregame work that Manny instituted some time ago, we are going to continue more of that -- just more basic ground-ball [and] fundamental work [and] more throwing to the bases type of stuff when you are not taking batting practice," Riggleman said.
"We have to do something to improve it. We just can't sit on our hands and say we are not very good defensively. We have to try to address it. Manny did it, and we are going to try to do that."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.