Mike Rizzo was interviewed on SXMSports by Jim Bowden and Craig Mish on Thursday. Rizzo says there will be a shortstop and a centerfield competition. Bowden says Werth will be the 4th outfielder on Opening Day, and Bowden made that prediction when Rizzo was not on the phone.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) February 18, 2016
SXM: Tell us about West Palm Beach and the proximity to other teams?
Rizzo: “That’s the key to the whole thing Jim. You have access to other teams. It’s not only for big league spring training which is for 6 weeks but we are constantly playing games with our Minor League guys. We are using it as our year round rehab facility, there’s instructional ball, there’s all sorts of things going on and it just makes it so convenient to have 4 teams within 15 minutes of you—it really saves the wear and tear on your players and allows them to play more baseball and to develop better just because they’re getting more repetition as they aren’t sitting on a bus all day.”
SXM: What type of conversations have you had with Dusty?
Rizzo: “We talk all the time. It’s a joy to talk to him. He’s a baseball guy throughout. He has a lot of other interests. He knows everyone in the world. Everyone loves the man. He’s got great insights on the game. He sees things that a lot people don’t see within the game. He’s got a great demeanor about him. An easy man to communicate with and talk to.”
SXM: Mike I think you had a terrific off-season in a very precise manner. I want to talk about the 2 things you really did. I want to talk about improving the top of your line-up with Revere and Murphy and the additions in your bullpen:
Rizzo: “If you look back on your season that you had prior you look back at your holes you had on the roster and how to improve yourselves and make yourself better. We all had parameters we had to adhere to via payroll-wise and that type of thing. We thought that the last year or so we became kind of an imbalanced line-up, not very left-handed orientated, even though a lot of our players hit off of righties and lefties well, we thought a more balanced line-up will assist us and kind of a different line-up which is more contact orientated with Revere and Murphy you have two of the most contact orientated players maybe in the National League that will hit in the top of the line-up. Kind of gritty type of hitters that really work counts and put the bat on the ball. When we played against them all those years, they were tough outs for us. We really went for some balance in the line-up. We wanted to be faster and more athletic and we think we achieved that. In the bullpen we went with guys who have pitched leveraged innings in the past and have had some success and some guys who have some swing and miss stuff and to make us leaner and a deeper bullpen.”
SXM: Rendon is in line for a very big season:
Rizzo: “I don’t think anything has changed with [Rendon’s] ability level. When he’s healthy, he’s as good as anyone in the league. He has a sweet swing from the right-side. One of those unique players that have barrel consistency and can really put the bat head on the ball. He hits for power and average. He can really be a high average hitter with power. He showed in 2014 that he’s a doubles machine. Several of those balls left the ballpark also. Putting him back in his natural position of 3rd base will be a big thing for him and I think it will help him. It will help us defensively because I think he is a Gold Glove calibre 3rd baseman and also offensively as it will make him more comfortable. I think it will protect his health at 3rd base as it is less demanding position physically as you’re not turning doubleplays with players at your feet all the time. He’s a guy with a great demeanor at the ballpark, he’s got a happy-go-lucky attitude outward but inward there’s a fire burning that he wants to be great, not good. We are going to see another big season out of him and he’s going to have a great long career for us. We are happy to have him and lucky he is coming into camp healthy and looking for big things from him.”
SXM: Who is going to play next to him at shortstop? Will it be Espi, Turner, Drew or a pillow deal for Desi?
Rizzo: “I think it is a position we are going to have some competition in. Espi we know Espi is a plus plus defender. [Espi] has a great arm, great range, he has a good set of hands. His natural position is shortstop, and we have seen him play shortstop many many times both at Long Beach State and here in the big leagues. We feel defensively that Espi is as good as anybody we got—maybe as good as anybody in the league defensively. We have a proven shortstop in Stephen Drew. We have an unproven high ability prospect in Trea Turner and we feel there is going to be a good competition. We will see what shakes out. We are going to do what’s best for our ball club obviously and that thing that helps us win now and in the long run. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out and we look forward to being extremely competitive there and in other spots.”
SXM: Is Desmond gone? Has that shipped sailed? Is there any possibility he comes back on a short deal?
Rizzo: “We haven’t reached out with Desi’s people in a long time and he certainly isn’t somebody we’ve been planning around. As you can see we’ve made plans to be without Desi but you never say never but we haven’t been in contact with his people in a long time.”
SXM: How do you see centerfield playing out?
Rizzo: “We love both players. Both are plus plus defenders. Taylor may be as good as anyone around. Michael’s just scratching the surface. He has big league ability. A guy that was thrown into the big leagues maybe a half season too earlier that I would have like to have seen him but the injury to Denard Span and Michael had to take the reps day in and day out in centerfield. We are happy in his developmental curve. We see big things ahead of him. A guy who can steal you bases, hit home runs, play outstanding defense, he has an outstanding throwing arm, and really checks a lot of boxes as far as being a terrific every day Major League player. We love Michael. Ben brings a skill-set that is very very unique. Ben hits at the top of the order. He’s probably as fast as anyone in the league. He’s coming off of 3 outstanding seasons. High average. High on-base last year. Went over to Toronto last year and helped them get to the playoffs. He played extremely well. Those are 2 guys who have athleticism and speed and stolen bases and great defense to add to our line-up. I see them both getting ample opportunities and ample at-bats in Spring Training. We will fight to see who will win that competition in centerfield. Both guys are certainly capable of being everyday centerfielders on a championship club. You have 2 of them right there. There are different skill sets of both players and bring different things to the table. Dusty will make those calls when the time is right to make them.”
Rizzo was done and then Bowden went on a rant.
Bowden: “I think Ben Revere is going to be in center. The real question is what happens in leftfield. You’re gonna have Jayson Werth who is 36 years old. You have to ask yourself how much he has left and where are you going to get better production from—Jayson Werth or Michael Taylor? I don’t like what I saw last year with Werth at all. I saw a player in decline and what I saw last year of Michael Taylor at this point is a way better defensive player and I think Michael Taylor is going to hit more home runs and Michael Taylor is going to steal more bases and I think Michael Taylor is going to have a higher batting average. I see it with Dusty Baker with Harper in Right, and maybe Taylor in Center and Revere in Left, with the possibility of Revere in Center and Taylor in Left. Remember that Ben Revere looked good in Left for the Toronto Blue Jays and he was a difference maker for them and I also know how much Dusty likes having a leadoff hitter who is an on-base guy so if you’re asking me, both Revere and Taylor both start and Werth is an unhappy 4th outfielder by the time you get to Opening Day.”
Everybody has opinions and Jim Bowden has a lot them, and he is paid to give them even if they are sometimes outlandish.
Last year Jim droned on and on about Trea Turner was going to be the August 1st 2015 shortstop starter for the Nats and of course it didn’t happen. Could Bowden be right this time about Werth? Sure, it’s possible but not probable on Opening Day if Jayson Werth is healthy. Now, if Jayson Werth starts the season poorly, there could be changes, but that’s looking at this situation pessimistically instead of seeing how this unfolds and play the games and see.