Nats Eye New Latin American Base
Sunday, September 13, 2009
MIAMI, Sept. 12 -- At one of three potential sites in the Dominican Republic, the Washington Nationals will soon headquarter their new Latin American baseball academy, reestablishing themselves in a country that previously linked them to embarrassment and scandal.
Last Monday, General Manager Mike Rizzo, President Stan Kasten and principal owner Mark Lerner took a one-day trip to the Dominican, scouting three sites for a new, permanent complex. Soon, the Nationals hope to pick a spot and begin construction. The goal: By spring 2010, Washington's Latin American prospects will have their own facility and the Nationals will have a base for their international scouting efforts.
"We're well on our way to turning this thing around," Rizzo said, "and we're going to have one of the jewels of the Caribbean and really take it and run with being a real big player in Latin America."
Only seven months ago, Washington's Dominican operations derailed. The Nationals learned that their top international prospect, known to that point as Esmailyn "Smiley" González, was four years older than he claimed. Their general manager, Jim Bowden, resigned amid a Dominican scouting-related federal investigation. With Bowden and Dominican chief Jose Rijo gone, the team relocated its Dominican academy to an on-loan facility in Boca Chica. The Nationals have since been operating with a skeletal international staff.
Rizzo is ready to change that. He has been looking at candidates for numerous Latin American scouting positions -- most important, a director of international operations. (Rizzo called an ESPN.com report, which citing Washington's interest in Miguel Nava, "inaccurate." He added, "I had a relationship with Miguel Nava with Arizona but I never talked to him about a job with Washington. Ever." Nava, who currently works for the Diamondbacks, is also under investigation for alleged bonus skimming.)
Of the three sites under consideration, two are in Boca Chica and the other is in San Pedro de Macoris.
"We're well under way to finalizing terms," Rizzo said. "It's something we're looking forward to, being next year in a brand new Dominican facility."
Friday's Starter Not Set
The Nationals have not determined their starter for Friday's game against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The team will use either Marco Estrada, who made his first big league start on Saturday, or left-hander Ross Detwiler, who is currently working out of the bullpen. Washington would like to get Detwiler at least one start before the end of the year.