01/29/10 2:01 PM EST
Riggleman talks Spring Training
Nats manager answers fans' questions about future in chat
By / MLB.com
Jim Riggleman: Welcome chatters. I've been looking forward to doing this. ... So let's get it under way.
frostyeod: Spring Training is almost here, will Nyjer Morgan be sliding head or feet first? Is it his decision or the clubs?
Riggleman: This question about Nyjer Morgan came up last night at a function I was at. We're going to work hard at Spring Training with Nyjer to try to get him comfortable sliding feet first. Hopefully, he will be able to do that without causing an equally severe problem with his ankle as opposed to hurting his hand sliding head first.
vanatsfan5: What areas are most improved during the offseason and what still needs to be done? What worries you the most?
Riggleman: I think Mike Rizzo has improved our roster a great deal since the end of last season to the current time, and I know Mike is still exploring some ideas that could continue to improve the roster. Two areas that were targets, most importantly, were pitching and defense and we feel like those two areas have been addressed with the additions of Pudge Rodriguez and pitchers [Jason] Marquis, [Matt] Capps, [Brian] Bruney, [Eddie] Guardado and [Tyler] Walker.
vanatsfan5: Who is your all time favorite baseball player and why?
Riggleman: My all-time favorite player was Brooks Robinson. He played in Baltimore, which was local for me, he was a great third baseman, clutch hitter and a first-class individual.
nats1967: What is your opinion on this years bullpen? Can the Nats continue where they left off last year on an eight-game winning streak? I've been a fan of the Expos/Nats going back to the 70's.
Riggleman: Our bullpen in 2009 made great strides. I was really pleased with the development of [Tyler] Clippard and [Jason] Bergmann, who helped set the stage for our closer. Along with those two, the additions of Capps, Bruney and others should really strengthen our bullpen for 2010.
Section138: Jim, Have you/your coaching staff and the front office had discussions about pitch counts to be in effect for [Stephen] Strasburg, if and when he makes it to the Nationals?
Riggleman: Pitch counts will be a hot topic around baseball in today's game. Like all clubs, we'll keep an eye on all of our pitchers' number of pitches and how often they're in ballgames. That being said, we will monitor some younger pitchers closer than veteran arms, such as Jason Marquis and Miguel Batista. Hopefully, young guys like Strasburg, [Shairon] Martis and others will be able to get though five, six, seven innings without extending their pitch count, which means they have to throw strikes and challenge hitters.
joemktg: Skip, what are the various middle infield scenarios that you're going to test during Spring Training?
Riggleman: We'll have a lot of options for our middle infield. The first thing we want to see in Spring Training is how is Cristian Guzman's arm and feet are feeling since some offseason treatments to those areas. If all is well with Cristian, there is a likelihood that he would remain at shortstop.
If there's any limitations with Cristian, we're very confident that Ian Desmond could hold down that position. Desmond made strides to improve his play at second base, so we know he could help us there also. At this time, Mike Rizzo is still exploring some additional possibilities for another middle infielder which could change the dynamic of whose playing the two positions.
bobcat1974: As you go into Spring Training do you have an idea as to what the outfield positions will look like? Should we expect to see [Josh] Willingham in left field on a regular basis with [Elijah] Dukes in right and Morgan in center?
Riggleman: If Opening Day were tomorrow, that would be our outfield. We have some very talented young guys such as [Justin] Maxwell and [Roger] Bernadina that will get significant playing time in the spring to vie for more playing time during the regular season. Again, the roster is being looked at daily by Mike, myself and our scouts to possibly make additions for at least one more outfielder.
bigdog2010: What do you think is our highest priority need at this point?
Riggleman: Everything is a priority. I don't like to rank one need more than another. We just need to continue to make progress in all areas. If I had to identify one area that we will definitely need to improve on it would be our defense. We made great strides in that area last year, but we have to start from day one of Spring Training to make sure we get out of the blocks at our best defensively.
JMJM: I think that you did a fine job last year, and really like what Rizzo did in the offseason and think we can make a move up this year. Do you really think Guzman has enough range to his left to play second next to [Adam] Dunn at first?
Riggleman: To Cristian Guzman's credit, he played through some physical ailments last year. At the end of the season, he let it be known that some issues with his feet and his throwing arm were really starting to limit his ability to play at the top of his game.
All indications are that he's going to be 100-percent healthy in Spring Training this year. That would allow him to have the range and mobility to play on either side of the infield.
nats2010va: The Nats have made some great offseason moves. What are your expectations for contributions from each?
Riggleman: I'm very encouraged by the additions to the ballclub that our front office and ownership have made possible for the upcoming season. Specifically, we've added some experience to our pitching and experience behind the plate and I feel that having Nyjer Morgan with us from day one of Spring Training will continue to improve our defense.
escolox: Who is slated to be the closer this year?
Riggleman: Dealing with the roster as it is today, we have some experience there at the end of our bullpen that gives us several options. The goal is for us to win the ballgame and who gets the save is not a priority for me. Generally, through the course of Spring Training and the early part of the season, relievers will define their roles by their performance.
Riggleman: We only have time for a few more ...
bills187: What do you think of John Lannan? I'm from Albany, N.Y., near where he went to college. Thanks!
Riggleman: I'm really glad to speak on John Lannan. John has put together two good years in a row. The thing I was most impressed with was that in his last few starts of the season, as he went past the 200-inning mark, he was throwing the ball better than he had all season. John never missed a start, went deep into ballgames and gave the Nats a chance to win in almost every game he started.
We're hoping that John continues to grow as a pitcher and feel that he will soon be recognized throughout the league as one of the top pitchers in baseball.
firep1ug: With Morgan back in the lineup, have you thought about the batting order. Morgan leading off with [Ryan] Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham in the middle?
Riggleman: The lineup you mentioned is accurate as the roster stands now. Having Nyjer in the leadoff spot is a great asset to the ballclub and having three professional hitters such as Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham gives us a great starting point to have a formidable offense. How the rest of the lineup plays out could depend on any additions that Mike Rizzo makes to our roster, but at this time, the second slot in the lineup would continue to be Cristian Guzman.
Thanks for all the questions, everyone. I hope to see you all at NatsFest on Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.