08/20/09 1:39 AM ET
Nats to name Rizzo GM on Thursday
Announcement expected to be made at news conference
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
"I think Mike has done a good job with what he has had," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "He is a great guy. I like him as a person. To have him around will be good."
In March, the Nationals named Rizzo acting general manager, two days after Jim Bowden resigned from the position. Rizzo has handled responsibilities related to the Major League, Minor League and scouting operations of the organization.
Day-to-day inquiries related to player personnel have been directed to Rizzo, with team president Stan Kasten having key hands-on involvement.
Since taking the job, Rizzo has made upgrades to the bullpen by adding Mike MacDougal, Jorge Sosa and Ron Villone, and he gained authorization to acquire outfielder Nyjer Morgan and left-hander Sean Burnett from the Pirates for outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-hander Joel Hanrahan.
The deal with Pittsburgh has played out initially as a considerably favorable one for Washington. Rizzo also made a change at manager, replacing Manny Acta with interim skipper Jim Riggleman, which has coincided with better performance this month.
Rizzo, as expected for any person in his role, was a visible figure in the efforts to get No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg signed before Monday's midnight ET deadline.
"Mike keeps his energy level high," Riggleman said. "He always comes in fired up -- always talking about today's game and last night's game. He is very much in tune to the strengths and weaknesses of the club. I really enjoy working with him.
"I think he has been very patient with the roster in terms of the position players, but has not hesitated to make moves when we were failing as a pitching staff. I think he was willing to go down to Syracuse and keep changing it up until we found the right mix. So it's a great combination. He's showed aggressiveness and patience."
Rizzo also doesn't sugarcoat the truth. Josh Willingham started the season as the fifth outfielder and expressed his unhappiness about the situation. Willingham had a heart-to-heart talk with Rizzo, who told Willingham that he would not play much to start the season, but would play every day eventually. Willingham has played regularly since early May because Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes were in hitting slumps. Willingham is now one of the best power hitters on the Nationals.
"Mike was upfront and honest about the situation. He didn't sugarcoat it," Willingham said. "He didn't lie to me and tell me that I was going to play right now. He said, 'But I promise you that you will get to play. Bear with me.' That's all I can ask. I didn't want him to tell me something that wasn't going to happen. I appreciate him being honest with me."
The move to hire Rizzo is part of a monumental week for the franchise. On Monday, the Nats signed Strasburg. On Thursday, they will name Rizzo the new full-time GM. And on Friday, the club will introduce Strasburg to fans at a news conference and Q&A session with team management prior to the game against the Brewers.
"If he didn't get the job, I think it would have been definitely something wrong with that picture," first baseman Adam Dunn said about Rizzo. "He's done everything to make this team better. He made great trades and he's just a great baseball guy. I'm glad he's going to be around."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.