Rizzo: “It’s Michael Taylor time right now”

VIERA, Fla. - Dealing with injuries is nothing new for Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. He was left scrambling throughout last season as the middle of his club’s lineup formed a line to the disabled list. Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman all missed more than 50 games in 2014. Now, barely a week into the Grapefruit League season, Rizzo faces the predicament of replacing Denard Span, the team’s offensive catalyst and best defensive outfielder.

“He’s a huge part of our ballclub,” Rizzo said. “He’s our leadoff hitter. He’s the guy who sets the table for the middle-of-the-lineup guys. Nobody cares. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. It’s time for another person to step up and we’re going to give Michael A. Taylor every opportunity to step in and be the guy for us.

Taylor-Throws-Outfield.jpg“You’ve got to play through it. There’s no excuse making. That’s why you have depth on your roster. That’s why you have a top prospect in your minor league system that someday’s going to be your center fielder. Well, someday is today.”

Rizzo knows that baseball doesn’t wait on injuries. Teams must have reliable bench players or minor league prospects available throughout the six or seven months of the schedule. As disappointed as Rizzo surely is with the loss of Span, he seems also enthusiastic about the chance to see Taylor showcase his potential.

“It’s time for Michael Taylor to emerge,” Rizzo said. “We like the player. He’s a really good defensive player. He can steal you a base. He can hit you a home run. He’s got a plus arm in the outfield, so we feel very confident about that.”

Taylor hit .304 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs in 110 games between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last season. He also swiped 37 bases, leading scouts to rave about his rare combination of speed and power. But Taylor also struck out a whopping 144 times last year in the minors.

The Nationals called Taylor up last August and he quickly delivered with a home run in his major league debut. But he followed by hitting just .205 with 17 strikeouts in 39 at-bats in 17 games.

“It’s going to be a transition year for him offensively,” Rizzo said. “He’s still a young, rookie player kind of finding himself at the big league level, but he’s got a lot of talent. He’s a five-tool candidate type of player. One person’s injury is another person’s opportunity, and it’s Michael Taylor time right now.”

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