Rizzo on the loss, Strasburg and his message for Storen (plus a thank you)

I just got home from Nationals Park a few minutes ago, and wanted to post some quotes from Nats general manager Mike Rizzo before hitting the pillow for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

Before I share Rizzo’s postgame comments, though, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who read my work here on MASNsports.com, commented, interacted with me on Twitter or in any way helped make this season so fun for me.

I joined the Nationals beat a couple weeks into spring training this year and had to play a bit of catch-up, but it was a really enjoyable experience, and I have you guys to thank for a lot of that. Thanks.

Now that I have the sappy stuff out of the way, here’s Rizzo, who met with reporters in the clubhouse following Friday night’s 9-7 Game 5 loss to the Cardinals.

“It was a great season,” Rizzo said. “It was a disappointing end, but a great season. I’m proud of the guys. You got to knock the champ out. We had them on the ropes, and we couldn’t knock them out. It’s a testament to them and their ballclub. But I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. It was a great season with a disappointing ending.

rizzo sunglasses sidebar.jpg“It’s always tough when you can see the finish line and taste it, and you’re an out or two or a pitch or two away and you don’t win it. It’s a testament to this game - you got to get all 27 outs before you can pack up the bats, as they say, especially against a club as playoff-tested and battle-tested as those guys over there.

“It was probably as hard to watch from my spot as it was in the dugout or anywhere else. It’s never fun. We’ve got to remember how it feels, the players, and (it will) make us better for it in the spring.”

Rizzo went over to Drew Storen at one point after the game, gave his closer a hug and a few words of encouragement. What was his message?

“Keep your head up,” Rizzo said. “He’s a terrific young closer. Make this a learning experience. Be better for it in the future. Come to spring training next year and we’ll be more battle-tested. The young players will have grown up and be veterans and we’ll know how to react to the playoff atmosphere.”

Rizzo has gotten plenty of criticism from national media types over his decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg, and he might get more in the coming days and weeks. As Rizzo has said countless times before, however, that doesn’t bug him.

“I’m not going to think about that at all,” he said. “We had a plan in mind, it was something we had from the beginning and I stand by my decision. We’ll take the criticism as it comes, but we have to do what’s best for the Washington Nationals. And we think we did.”

Rizzo declined to discuss the Nationals’ offseason priorities, saying he’ll take a little time before answering those type of questions. But he clearly likes the core group that he has and is ready to build around it.

“We’ve come a long, long way in a short period of time,” Rizzo said. “Like I’ve said all along, we like where we’re at, we like the core players on this team and we’re going to be excited to ratchet it up in spring.”

The toughest part at this point is the finality of it all. One moment, the Nats were making plans for the National League Championship Series. Now, their season is over.

“We don’t know what to do tomorrow,” Rizzo said. “Saturday and we don’t have a game.”

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