Mike Rizzo sat in the Nationals Park press conference room around this time yesterday, beaming as the Nationals' newest future cornerstone, Bryce Harper, was introduced to the media. He wasn't going to let it on at the time, but he probably already knew that the No. 1 pick the Nationals took the year before Harper - Stephen Strasburg - would be lost for a year.
Yesterday was the Nationals' day to celebrate Harper, and neither Strasburg nor Rizzo wanted to take away from that. So they made the decision to release the news about Strasburg's torn ulnar collateral ligament and his need for Tommy John surgery today.
Both discussions have a profound effect on the Nationals' future, and the Strasburg news, in particular, throws off the team's plan for 2011. Do the Nationals increase their payroll with a few free agents to put a more competitive team on the field and appease a restless fanbase, or do they regroup for 2012?
We'll have more on this in the next few days - I discussed the Strasburg injury and its economic impact with Maury Brown at bizofbaseball.com this morning - but Rizzo shed a little light on the subject today.
"With Stephen and Zim, we've said all along that we need to come up with a real rotation. We're certainly going to attack and get our rotation in place, via free agency, trades or developing our own," Rizzo said in this afternoon's press conference. "That's always our primary goal. It's been our primary goal, and we're certainly not going to stop looking for the ultimate starting rotation. We know that's the core of the ballclub. A year goes fast, and a year from now, this guy next to me will be toeing the rubber, and we'll have two-fifths of our rotation of what we have planned on the field at the same time, and we're going to be ready to take off from there."
Rizzo wasn't shedding much light, though, on whether the Nationals would pursue other free agents for 2011 or plan for the future in light of the Strasburg injury. Asked specifically about how this would affect the team's desire to resign first baseman Adam Dunn, Rizzo said, "I don't think there's any correlation between that. We've got a plan, a game plan, to improve the ballclub and to map ourselves a way to become a championship organization in the near future. I think the injury to Stephen and the signing of Adam Dunn are two independent things."