Wiping away the whipped cream to gauge the outlook in NatsTown


This week, Nats GM Rizzo took some time to answer a few fan questions about the rest of this season, the team’s minor league plans for the future and the whipped cream pie that blindsided him after the Nationals signed No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper.

Natsfan1a: Was the pie whipped cream or shaving cream?

Mike Rizzo: It was whipped cream, and it was delivered with a lot of velocity by Stan Kasten - although it was extremely funny and light-hearted. It was a good situation because it was a good and happy occasion. But it did get in my eye, and it did sting a little, even though it was whipped cream. It tasted pretty good.

Riverdog: Since most of the affiliates’ contracts are up at the end of this season, will they all be reupped? if not, which ones will be let go?

Mike Rizzo: We’re happy to announce that we’re re-upping with the Syracuse affiliation. It’s a terrific relationship between us and the Simone family. We love it there. They love having us there. We feel like that is a good situation for us to be in long-term. Right now, we have made the decision to re-up with Harrisburg in Double-A. We like that situation. They’ve redone the ballpark. Harrisburg is a really good situation and a really good developmental place to be. With Potomac, the proximity to the Nationals is great, and we really like the relationship we have there. Hagerstown is a situation we really like, also. The geography works for us, and the new ownership group there is terrific. So we’re looking for long-term relationships with those. The rest - Vermont, and the GCL - we haven’t decided yet.

Peric: Who do you think will be the top four starters in your rotation going into ST 2011? Are you planning on bringing up Danny Espinosa, Chris Marerro, and Michael Burgess when rosters expand?

Mike Rizzo: The starting rotation for 2011 is kind of a fluid situation. We certainly see Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg being in the mix. Also, we have Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Matt Chico, Shairon Martis, Livan Hernandez, John Lannan and Jason Marquis. We have eight or nine quality pitchers for five spots. It’s going to be a great competition in spring training. We feel that’s the depth of our organization.

We’re going to expand the roster with a handful of players. It’s not going to be a big call-up. Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess are not going to be the ones that are called up. But we do have a mind to call up two or three players from Syracuse after their season.

Nate: You recently signed a couple of high-ceiling prep arms in Cole and Ray. What is the status of our high ceiling prep arms from 2007 (Smoker and McGeary)? After struggling as a starter, is Smoker’s home in the bullpen? How is McGeary’s rehab, and what are the plans for him?

Mike Rizzo: Josh Smoker has taken well to his new role as a bullpen guy. We’ve shortened up his innings; he has much better velocity that way - and he can concentrate on being a two-pitch pitcher, instead of a four-pitch starter. Jack McGeary is rehabbing after Tommy John surgery. We hope to have him back next year, and hopefully he recovers fully.