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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says he does not expect Starlin Castro to rejoin team

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters before Tuesday's game and addressed the Starlin Castro situation: “This time we failed. I’m responsible for the players that I put on our roster and on the field,” Rizzo said. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday that he does not expect Starlin Castro to rejoin the team this season, citing his “zero-tolerance policy” on domestic violence issues. Castro is on a seven-day paid administrative leave from the Nationals as Major League Baseball investigates a domestic violence allegation against him. Since MLB placed him on leave Friday, Castro could have it extended or be activated at the end of this week.

But Rizzo was firm in that neither path will lead to him playing for Washington again.

“I was very disappointed when I found out the news,” Rizzo told reporters before Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. “We do pride ourselves . . . you’ve heard me say it a million times, that you read about our guys in the Sports section and not the other sections. And this time we failed. I’m responsible for the players that I put on our roster and on the field.”

Rizzo’s stance came three days after Manager Dave Martinez’s forceful comments on the matter. Martinez told reporters that he had nothing to say to Castro until the investigation was complete. He called the situation “awful” and added that he loses respect for anyone who commits domestic violence. Martinez and Rizzo said they learned of the allegations Thursday, the night before MLB put Castro on administrative leave. Both said this allegation is not related to why Castro briefly went on the restricted list for “family matters” in mid-June.

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Castro, a 31-year-old infielder, signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Nationals before the 2020 season. In 2011, while playing for the Chicago Cubs, he was accused of sexual assault. Prosecutors didn’t bring charges against him then, citing insufficient evidence. On Friday, Martinez said he was “shocked” when learning of the allegation that led to Castro’s administrative leave, adding that he wasn’t concerned with Castro’s off-field behavior when the Nationals added him two winters ago.

“We did a lot of due diligence, specifically with this player,” Rizzo said Tuesday, “because of his past, and because we had a lot of inside information on him because he played for some of our coaches. . . . So going into it, when we signed him, I felt comfortable with it.

“You don’t go home with [players]; you’re not in their houses and that type of thing,” Rizzo continued. “But what I told the players when we met with them, after we told the team about Castro, was: ‘We got to do better. We got to do better at this. The whole world has to do better at this, and it’s unacceptable.’ It’s zero tolerance here, and I don’t care how good of a player you are. It’s zero tolerance, and we’re just not going to put up with it. It’s not something Davey Martinez or Mike Rizzo’s Washington Nationals are going to have.”

When asked if he thought MLB’s investigation would keep Castro from returning to the Nationals, Rizzo shook his head. Without Castro, who had been the team’s starting third baseman, the Nationals have cycled between Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer at the position.

“The process is the process,” Rizzo answered. “You asked the question of do I plan on having Starlin Castro back, and I said I do not plan on having him back.”

His initial reaction when hearing Castro was going on MLB-sanctioned leave for alleged domestic violence?

“I was surprised. I was angered by it. I was pissed off by it, and it’s something that cannot happen. It should not happen. It will not happen with the Nationals — otherwise we’ll fix it,” Rizzo said. “And those were my thoughts at the time.”