Rizzo, Williams have a history with Scherzer (Meek, Ka'aihue sign minor league deals)

Mike Rizzo's history with Max Scherzer is well-documented. The Nationals general manager was the scouting director in Arizona in 2006 when the Diamondbacks selected the hard-throwing Scherzer with the No. 11 pick in the first-year player draft.

Rizzo scouted Scherzer, and loved what he saw out of the young right-hander. And when it came time for the Diamondbacks to make their first-round pick, Rizzo had to convince the others in the Arizona war room that Scherzer was the best guy on the board.

Scouts always trust their own eyes and believe their own evaluations. And when it comes to Scherzer, Rizzo's initial impressions of the University of Missouri product ended up being dead on.

scherzer-press-conference-sidebar.jpg"I saw Max twice as an amateur," Rizzo said at yesterday's press conference introducing Scherzer as the newest National. "The first time he didn't fare that well, but I loved the competitiveness, loved the way he attacked hitters and just loved the demeanor on the mound. I mean, he was pouring fastballs into right-handed hitters. It was pretty evident that he had power stuff. But what really affected me in a positive light was I saw a guy that was struggling a little bit, but made no excuses and just got after it.

"And the second time when I went back to see him, it was a 180. And it was a very easy game to scout. He was an extremely easy player to take at 11 in the draft."

Rizzo said that beyond Scherzer's stuff, the way the righty attacked hitters really stood out when he was on the mound. It was clear Scherzer hated to lose, Rizzo said.

Over the years, Rizzo kept track of Scherzer's career. And this offseason, thanks to the Lerner family's willingness to spend $210 million to bring Scherzer to D.C., Rizzo got to reunite with his guy.

"He was a coveted pitcher since he got to Detroit, really, so he was a guy that we had in the back of our minds all the time," Rizzo said. "When you get closer to free agency, of course you put together a list of guys that can help your club, and he certainly was at the top of that list this year. He's a guy that I wouldn't say we coveted over the years, but he's a guy that we thought if and when he's available, he would really help our ballclub.

"He's a guy that I've admired since 2006, watched him grow up in the big leagues. A guy that came from the 11th pick in the draft to a guy that just signed a mega-megadeal."

Rizzo isn't the only one in the Nats organization who has a past history with Scherzer. So does the right-hander's new manager.

Matt Williams was actually Scherzer's skipper for the final five weeks of the season when Scherzer was pitching for Double-A Mobile back in 2007. At the press conference yesterday, Williams relayed a memory of the young Diamondbacks prospect back when Scherzer was in his first season as a professional.

"Every minor league starting pitcher has a pitch count. His was 100," Williams recalled. "He had 97 pitches. I went out to the mound and told him he's got three pitches to get this last guy out and (then) he was done. He rared back and went 97 (mph), 98 (mph), 99 (mph) to strike him out.

"That's the kind of guy you see up here. He hasn't changed since then, and he won't change now. He's a bulldog. We're going to be happy to give him the ball every fifth (day)."

The Nationals know that seven-year contracts for free agent pitchers haven't worked out well in the past. They know that Scherzer's numbers are going to decline over the length of his deal. But they also feel they know Scherzer pretty well, and that made them comfortable giving Scherzer the largest contract for a right-hander in major league history.

Update: The Nats have added more potential relief depth by signing right-hander Evan Meek to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, according to MLB.com.

An All-Star with the Pirates in 2010, Meek spent last season in the Orioles organization. He went 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 23 major league games with Baltimore and 2-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 39 appearances with Triple-A Norfolk.

Meek, 31, has made 179 relief appearances in the majors, going 7-11 with a 3.63 ERA. His first five seasons were spent with Pittsburgh.

Update II: Add another minor league deal to the list. The Nats announced the signing of Meek and also announced they've signed first baseman/outfielder Kila Ka'aihue to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training.

Ka'aihue, 30, last appeared in the majors in 2012, when he hit .234/.295/.398 in 39 games with the A's.

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