Nationals promote assistant Mike Rizzo to GM job

Howard Fendrich | 8/20/2009, 11 a.m.

What a week for Mike Rizzo. What a week for the Washington Nationals.

After 5 1/2 months of doing the work of Washington's general manager - including signing No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a record deal just a few days ago - Rizzo is getting the big title, too.

Rizzo might have been Washington's acting general manager, but he was still technically an assistant GM. Now he will be moved up to GM, two people in Major League Baseball familiar with the Nationals' plans said.
The pair confirmed Rizzo's promotion to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement was expected Thursday.

"The things he's done since he's been on board have been really good, and they've made us a better team," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after the team's 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. "It's not our place to decide what people in the front office are here or there, but to have him around, I think would be good."

Rizzo was given the general manager's duties shortly after Jim Bowden abruptly resigned as Washington's GM during spring training on March 1.

Rizzo joined the Nationals as assistant GM in July 2006, after seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, primarily as director of scouting. A minor league player for four years, he is widely regarded as a strong evaluator of talent.

Giving him the full-fledged GM job lends a measure of stability to a franchise that rarely has enjoyed any, dating to its days as the Montreal Expos. Indeed, one of Rizzo's key decisions in the coming months will be what to do about the manager: Jim Riggleman was given that job on an interim basis when Manny Acta was fired last month.

Rizzo's advancement is part of a series of significant events jammed into the small space of a handful of days.

As Monday turned to Tuesday, Rizzo concluded talks on a $15.1 million contract with Strasburg, the hard-throwing right-hander from San Diego State. Now comes word of Rizzo's new post. And, on Friday, Strasburg will be introduced to fans at a pregame news conference on the Nationals Park field.

It was Rizzo who was on the phone with agent Scott Boras, negotiating down to the wire on the Strasburg deal. It was Rizzo who was put in front of reporters to discuss that deal and how it got completed on time. It was Rizzo who was shown on the outfield scoreboard at the team's stadium before Tuesday's game, explaining the Strasburg deal.

That was only the latest piece Rizzo has added to the organization as he already started the task of what he likes to say is a building - not a rebuilding - for a perennially last-place team on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season.

He reconfigured the disastrous bullpen Bowden had assembled. Rizzo also acquired new leadoff hitter and center fielder Nyjer Morgan in a June 30 trade with Pittsburgh, a move widely credited with spurring Washington's recent run of better play.

"He's shown both aggressiveness and patience with the makeup of our roster," Riggleman said before Wednesday's game, "and I think the result is we're playing better baseball because he's solidified our roster."

AP freelance writer Daimon Eklund contributed to this report.