Rizzo says he’s frustrated, disappointed with Nationals’ pitching search

For the second time this offseason, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo sat on a dais to talk about a significant contract he’d given to a free agent. And for the second time this offseason, he fielded a handful of questions from reporters about the starting pitcher he hasn’t been able to get.

The market for starting pitchers is quickly dwindling, with the Nationals having lost out on Jorge De La Rosa, never really coming close to getting Cliff Lee and deciding they weren’t going to meet Carl Pavano’s price. They also lost out on a trade for Zack Greinke after the pitcher invoked his no-trade clause, killing a possible deal with the Royals, and watched Matt Garza get traded to the Cubs.

The team could still make a run for former Padres pitcher Chris Young, and options like Jeremy Bonderman and Freddy Garcia are still on the market. But Rizzo allowed that the search for pitching hasn’t gone how he would have liked.

“I would refer to it as more frustrated, but a bit disappointed, yes,” Rizzo said.

He reiterated he felt Lee was the only elite starter on the free agent market, and wouldn’t confirm whether the team has interest in Young. But he said the Nationals will “keep attempting” to get a No. 1 starter.

“They’re very difficult to obtain,” he said.

Rizzo was also firm in response to Stephen Strasburg’s comments that he’ll begin throwing off a mound in Feburary as part of his Tommy John rehab. “Stephen will throw off the mound when the doctors tell him he’s going to throw off the mound, and not a moment sooner,” he said.

And finally, he took responsibility for rushing Yunesky Maya to the majors last year, saying he “probably put him in a position that was difficult to succeed.

“I’ll take that one on my back,” Rizzo said. “We won’t make that mistake this year. He’s going to be ready for spring training, and I expect to see really good things out of him.”