VIERA, Fla. - I sat down with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo yesterday for a brief one-on-one interview, to get a sense of how he feels about the team at the start of 2011 spring training. Rizzo weighed in with his thoughts on the future of manager Jim Riggleman, how the team will handle Bryce Harper and what he thinks of the way players handled their offseasons. Part 1 of my Q-and-A with him is below:
Ben Goessling: It's early, but do you have any first impressions of the way the team looks?
Mike Rizzo: Pitchers and catchers are here. I like the energy of the camp so far. I like the fact everyone has come in in really good, fine condition. There hasn't been one misstep out of that. With the position players coming here, I see a lot of energy in the camp. I see some guys that have made remarkable changes in their bodies. I think they've bought in that there's going to be competition here, that they've got to be ready in the spring. They've come ready.
BG: Both (Jayson) Werth and (Ryan) Zimmerman were here early. Do you like to see that to kind of set a tone or send a message, or is that overrated?
MR: I don't think it's overrated. The fact that those two guys chose on their own to come early and to get ready shows that they're serious about this year. They did set a tone early on in the spring, and they're guys that we're counting on to lead. They lead often by example.
BG: Jim was asked the other day if this was a 'must-win' year for him, and his response was that you don't want to think about the consequences if you don't win. What's your take on how to characterize this year.
MR: Position players haven't reported yet, and we're talking about the manager's situation. I made Jim the interim manager. I gave him the full-time job. I've got great confidence in Jim Riggleman.
BG: I guess I'm asking more in the sense of how you approach this year for the team - do you look at it as, 'Let's get some pieces in place and really go after it in 2012,' or do you think year-to-year?
MR: We want to win in 2011. That's what we're here for, to win as many games as we can. We're done with the developmental part of the big leagues. We're here to win games. We're here to set a tone that we're going to compete for championships, and we want to win. There's pressure on the players to perform. There always has been in this league, and there always will be.
BG: With your pitching staff, there's been a lot said about it - you guys wanted to get a No. 1 (starter), and it didn't happen. Are we at a point now where it's kind of hard to upset the apple cart, so to speak, if you get an offer, or is that something where you're always looking?
MR: We're always looking for an opportunity to improve the club.
BG: So you don't feel like having to take three or four prospects off your team would be impossible at this point?
MR: Well, that's a hypothetical, and I don't know. But if we had the chance to improve the club by making a trade, we'll do so.