Mike Rizzo held a conference call with beat reporters a short while ago, and though the Nationals general manager reiterated several points raised in his televised interview with me last week, there were a few new nuggets that came out of this session...
-- Adam LaRoche, who had surgery in June to repair a left shoulder tear, began a throwing program last week. Rizzo continues to speak about the LaRoche (who is under contract for 8 million in 2012) as his starting first baseman, despite the presence of Michael Morse and Chris Marrero on the roster and big names like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder about to hit the free-agent market. "His rehab is going great," Rizzo said of LaRoche. "He started throwing just last week. He will be on a throwing program and building up to prepare for spring training. He should be full-go for spring training. That's the word I got, not only from Adam, but from our medical staff."
-- Though the Nationals continue to talk with Chien-Ming Wang about a contract extension, the two sides aren't on the verge of striking a deal. "I wouldn't describe it as imminent or close," Rizzo said. "But we're still communicating and we still have a mutual interest for Chien-Ming to sign with the Nationals." Wang, as is the case for all pending free agents, will be allowed to start talking to other clubs five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Wang is scheduled to pitch next week in his native Taiwan against a team of major leaguers. Though the Nationals won't have formal control over his workload (since he'll no longer be under contract with them) Rizzo said he and agent Alan Nero have discussed parameters, and "they're going to be very careful and realistic about it."
-- Anthony Rendon, the Nationals' top pick in this summer's draft, continues on a throwing program with minor-league infield coordinator Jeff Garber. Rendon hasn't played in any organized games since signing in August, and he won't play in any this offseason. But the third baseman (who dealt with a shoulder injury during his final season at Rice University) has participated in all other baseball activities, and Rizzo said "without any setbacks should be 100 percent ready to go in spring training."
-- Rizzo said he had some preliminary talks with Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez right after the season, but both players wanted to wait until later this winter before discussing their options for 2012. Each veteran will become a free agent in the next week, and it doesn't appear the Nationals view either player as a key piece to their roster moving forward.
-- Rizzo acknowledged his scouts saw Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish pitch several times this year. The GM himself saw Darvish, who may attempt to sign with a major-league club this winter, in person two seasons ago. "As we've always said, we're open to acquiring talent in any way, shape or form," Rizzo said.
-- Rizzo acknowledged he'll take into consideration the fact the Nationals will lose their first-round pick in next summer's draft if they sign a Type A free agent. Because the Nationals finished with the 15th-best record in the majors, their top 2012 draft pick is not protected. "I think it will be part of our decision process," Rizzo said, "and it does have an impact on us."
-- Finally, Rizzo once again all but confirmed Davey Johnson will return as manager. The club, though, is waiting until the conclusion of the World Series before making a formal announcement about its 2012 manager and coaching staff.