Welcome back for Mike Rizzo’s second blog of the 2010 season here on MASNsports.com.
This time around, Rizzo talks with Nationals beat writer Ben Goessling about Nats super-prospect Stephen Strasburg, as the right-hander continues to exceed high expectations.
Ben Goessling: You’ve had a lot of questions this spring about (Stephen) Strasburg. He said something the other day about how the attention on him is a little premature, but it brings attention to the other guys on the team. How do you approach all the national media attention that he gets?
Mike Rizzo: I think we try and control it as well as we can, but he’s news. We can’t stop that, and nor do we really want to stop it altogether. We want to control it to the fact that he’s a very private person. When he does get to the big leagues and when he has success in the big leagues, I think he’ll feel much more comfortable in the fact that he’s getting such attention. I think now, he feels he’s getting attention he really doesn’t deserve because he hasn’t done it yet. I think that says more about the person and the player than anything I could ever say positively about him.
BG: He kind of comes in and talks about keeping your mouth shut and your ears open. I’m sure you saw that in your evaluations of him before the draft, but has he lived up to everything there that you expected?
Mike Rizzo: He’s exceeded all my expectations in that regard. The way he interacts in the clubhouse, the respect he shows for the game, the uniform and for the veteran players in the clubhouse - you talk to every one of these veteran guys, he interacts with them, but he interacts in such a respectful way. He’s always open for knowledge. He’s a sponge. He takes tidbits from everybody, he filters what he feels he can use himself and implements things he can use. He really has been a special player in that regard, in the way he conducts himself.
BG: What kinds of tweaks does he still have to make down in the minors to be successful?
Mike Rizzo: I think he’s going to have to learn the little things about pitching, beyond your repertoire, your command of the strike zone and that type of thing. This is the National League - how to utilize the bat, how to bunt, how to field bunts, how to control a running game, pitching from the stretch, backing up bases - stuff that he has not had a whole lot of practice at in the collegiate level, because of his dominance. I think we also need to work on, when he fails - and he’s going to fail at some point in the minor league season and in the major leagues. How do you handle that? How do you respond to it? How do you feed off it, and how do you learn from it? Those are the big things I think he needs to learn.
BG: I know you have a lot of respect for the system and guys going through the minors, but there’s obviously going to be less scrutiny there. Does that play into the preference (to start Strasburg in the minors)?
Mike Rizzo: I just think the minor leagues are for training, and the major leagues are for performing. That was good - I just thought of that one (laughs).
BG: Now you’ve got that one for when eight other people ask you that question.
Mike Rizzo: Exactly...