Mike Rizzo, discussing anything you wanted to know

Mike Rizzo met with the media at Space Coast Stadium a little earlier today, and if it wasn’t an official State of the Team address, it certainly covered enough ground to function as one. Here is a transcript of what he had to say:

On the general outlook of the team: “We’re confident that we improved out product. We think we’ve got a good bunch of guys in the clubhouse. We think it’s going to be a good, lively competition and we’re going to play the game the way it should be played. There’s going to be effort and we’re hoping for better results on the field.”

On Stephen Strasburg: “One of the big things about tomorrow is we’re starting spring training. Stephen Strasburg is an important part of our present and future endeavors, and he’s just one of many that’s going to be out there playing. He’s going to be in the rotation and compete for a job and see where he’s at. We’ll let the performance of the players dictate what’s going to happen.”

On what’s realistic for Strasburg: “It’s hard to predict. If he’s the player we think he’s going to be, we feel he’ll have some impact in the major leagues in 2010. I’m not going to put any time limits on it because we just don’t know where he’s at developmentally yet.”

On the level of excitement: “You’re in the office in the winter, making all these moves, and in your mind you have a picture of how it’s going to look in spring. We finally get to see where we’re at and what we’ve done and see your work come to fruition.”

On how not to rush Strasburg: “You balance it by, you do what’s best for Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals long-term. We’re certainly not going to rush to get in a couple of quick victories or to make a media statement. We’re going to do what’s best for him and for the Nationals long-term. We need to develop him at the proper pace and see where he’s at. It’s one of the things I’ve done for many years, develop players, and we have a plan for him - as specific as it can get when you talk about human beings and performance. We’re not going to rush him; we’re going to develop him at the pace that we think extracts the most we can get out of him and see where it takes us.”

On what he’s looking for from Strasburg: “Certainly, it’s three-fold - it’s physically, mentally and emotionally. You have to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to pitch in the major leagues to face the grind of Major League Baseball, the every day-ness of it. You certainly have to prepare to pitch against the best players in the world on a consistent basis.”

On Strasburg’s youth: “He’s a player that just turned 21 and he’s gone through a lot of changes in his life this year - his first taste of professional baseball in the Arizona Fall League, getting married and that type of thing has had a big type of impact on him. I think bringing his new wife with him to spring training is going to really help.”

On Jesus Flores: “We’re certainly going to evaluate where he’s at physically is probably the most important thing. Once he’s 100 percent physically healthy, we think we know what we’ve got performance-wise in the player. I think we’re going to evaluate where he’s at physically. Again, with a 23-, 24-year-old young player, that’s going to be a player for us down the road we’re going to be very cautious with him. We feel we’ve got very good options behind the plate with Ivan Rodriguez and Wil Nieves, so we’re going to be cautious with him. We’re going to evaluate and see where he’s at.”

On whether Flores will be healthy to start the season: “It’s hard for me to say before I see him on the field.”

On Nyjer Morgan: “He fulfils a lot of things that were a necessity for us. He almost singlehandedly improved out defense in the outfield. sabermetrically, he’s the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball. He brings an energy, not only to the field and the basepaths, but to the clubhouse. He gives us a presence at the top of the lineup and once he does get on base, he creates havoc on the bases and splits the focus of pitchers and may get two-, three- and four-hole hitters more fastballs to hit.”

On the rotation: “I feel comfortable going into the season with the depth of the starting pitching we have. Are we satisfied where we’re at? We always want to get better. We’re going to count on some really young pitchers again, but with a full year of major league time under their belt, so we feel good about that. We feel that with a healthier Chico, a healthier Stammen and hopefully Olson back to his 2008 form, that we get improvements there.”

On the possibility of making more moves: “We’re never done, we’re never satisfied. We need to improve our team. We know where we’re at. You know what our won-loss record was last year and we’re certainly always looking to improve the club in any way we can.”

On Adam Kennedy’s impact on Ian Desmond in the middle infield: “Desmond’s a good upsided player. We’re going to develop him at the pace we think gives him the best chance to be an impact player for us. The signing of (Adam) Kennedy solidifies our second base situation for this year. We’re going to see where Cristian Guzman is in his health and his rehabilitation. It’s going to bring great competition at the shortstop position. We’re going to see where that leads us. I will say, Ian Desmond’s going to play somewhere every day this season after spring training.”

On the possibility of Desmond playing multiple positions: “I think that’s a question more for Jim. We’ve discussed that and he may run around a little bit in some other positions. But we see him as a shortstop for us, not only in 2010 but down the road.”

On the lineup’s potential for power and run production: “I think they play off each other. Dunn gives Zimmerman more pitches to hit, Willingham gives Dunn more pitches to hit and so on and so forth. What we’re shooting for here is to get a nice, long lineup that can grind out at-bats and work pitchers, with high on-base percentages to let the big boys knock in the runs. We think with a full season having Nyjer at the top of the (lineup), a healthy Guzman, a productive Zim, Dunn and Willingham with the re-emergence of a productive Elijah Dukes, we think that we’ve got a good long lineup. With Pudge Rodriguez the professional hitter he is, we think he’s going to have a bounceback season and be very productive for us. I like where our lineup’s at. It’s a very long lineup that sees a lot of pitches, there’s a lot of high on-base percentage guys there and I think that leads to runs scored and RBIs.”

On Pudge: “I’ve seen him perform and I saw him play several times last year. I think last year was more of a games-played problem for him where they overexposed him and played him too much at this point in his career. We’re going to manage his at-bats and his games more carefully and I think we’re going to extract more out of him.”

On the possibility of extending Adam Dunn’s contract: “It’s important to me because he’s one of my favorite players on the team. I love the guy. There’s not many 40-home run, 100-RBI guys running around out there. He fits in with this club. He’s a very unique leader, I call him - he leads in a very quirky way but leads nonetheless. He’s always open to helping the younger players and we look at it this way: several years down the road if he continues at the pace he’s at, we’re going to be talking about Hall of Famer Adam Dunn.”

On the progress of negotiations with Dunn: “We’re not going to comment on where we’re at on any kind of discussions of contracts.”

On Dunn at first base: “I think he’s found his home at first base, I really believe that. I think that’s his best position. We’re not asking him to be a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player. WE want him to be an average defender and he’s going to work really hard at being it. I saw some signs of some good things from him last year. He picks the ball really well, throws from the other infielders. He saved about 11 errors last year in the games he played at first base, just at picking balls in the dirt. He needs some experience on balls off the bat, he needs some experience on throwing the ball to second base on double plays, but I think that will all come with work. With his athleticism, and what he can do offensively, I can see him being a guy that couldn’t be as good defensively as, let’s say, Ryan Howard and those type of really offensive first basemen.”

On the makeup of the bullpen: “It’s all going to take care of itself. It’s open competition and we’ve got a lot of good veteran pitchers to compete for bullpen spots. We feel that there’s at least three spots in the bullpen that are wide open and seven really good options to fill them, so we feel really good about that. I love having competition in spring training because it brings out the best in these professionals. I think there’s competition at a lot of different positions this year.”

On whether the team is sending any kind of a message to players by going to arbitration instead of negotiating settlements before arbitration hearings: “I don’t think there’s a message. It’s a part of the game, it’s the business part of the game. There’s not two guys I like better on this team than Sean Burnett and Brian Bruney. I’ve known Brian since he was 18 years old. Nobody knows him better than I do. I love the guy. He’s a talented performer for us. Both of those guys are going to be huge, not only in 2010 but I see them both as long-term pieces. We put that behind us, as I told them after the arbitration hearings. We put those things behind us and we move on and now it’s baseball. All facets are happy that the arbitration process is behind us and baseball begins. They’re big boys, they’re professionals and they’re going to put it behind them and perform admirably for us.”

On whether Jason Marquis is dominant enough to be considered an ace: “He certainly is. Any guy who goes out there and gives you 200-plus innings every year and wins 15 games, pitch on all-star teams, I think he’s than capable of leading this staff into the 2010 season. My hope, the club’s hope and Jason’s hope is that some day we can say he’s the third-best pitcher on the team or the fourth-best pitcher on the team. If he’s your third starter or your fourth starter, you’ve got one heck of a starting rotation.”

On whether Marquis’ streak of being on a playoff team every year of his career makes him a lucky charm: “That didn’t go into my thought process. We were looking for a workhorse, that consistent type of major league starter that was going to give us a chance to win every fifth day and a real presence in the clubhouse. But the playoff magic, it didn’t hurt his case at all.”