Jim Riggleman on the 2011 Nationals
Monday, December 6, 2010; 8:41 PM
At the winter meetings, all dim lobbies and hotel suites filled with baseball executives and laptops and snack foods, the actual playing of baseball seems pretty far away. As for that, Manager Jim Riggleman addressed some points about the upcoming season. Here are the highlights: *First overall pick Bryce Harper will begin spring training in major league camp, a starting point that owes to his spot o the Nationals' 40-man roster. "He'll get a lot of attention, I'm sure, just as Stephen Strasburg did last year," Riggleman said. "But he'll be in big league camp and get some at-bats. If the at-bats look like they are starting to get too infrequent, we will get him down to minor league camp where he's seeing pitching every day." *Riggleman said Nyjer Morgan will be the clear-cut center fielder heading in spring training, meaning he will not have to compete with Roger Bernadina. Riggleman also acknowledged the obvious, that Morgan must improve his .319 on-base percentage for the Nationals' offense to thrive. "We want Nyjer to score and to score, he's got to be on base," Riggleman said. "We know he can do it. He's shown he can do it. We just hope that he's getting on base at a little higher clip, and that's going to mean a little improvement against left-handed pitching, basically." *The Nationals could add a back-end-of-the-bullpen reliever this offseason, but for now their three candidates to close are Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard. Riggleman was asked if he'd like to settle on one of them, or if he'd go with a committee in the ninth inning. "In a perfect world, you have a guy who does it, but our guy who we kind of look to do that down the road is Storen and that being the case, we want to allow him to gravitate towards that," If it happens sooner than later, it's great, but if he gets some help doing it in the meantime, again, I'll point to a couple of the best closers, really, didn't pitch the ninth inning until they were about 25, 26 years old; Mariano Rivera and a few others. They kind of found their way in the seventh and eighth inning for a couple of years and when [John] Wetteland moved on, Mariano took it over and others have done the same thing. "I think that that has proven to be a real good way for a guy to acclimate himself to that ninth inning is to get a little history behind him in the seventh and eighth, and Drew has got a little of that. He's pitched some in the ninth. But again, we are not going to deny him if he's clearly that option there, but we are not going to force it to happen, either."