For the second straight year Jim Riggleman took over a horrible team at midseason as interim manager. For the second straight year he helped the team become slightly less horrible. And for the second straight year he probably won’t be asked back.
Here’s what Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo–himself an “interim” GM until just recently–said about Riggleman’s chances of managing the team in 2010:
I think Riggleman really did a good job handling the ball club after the All-Star break. I think he put us on pace to really focus and bare down on the fundamentals of the game, to play cleaner and more efficient ballgames. He had the players playing at a high level. I think he has done the best job he could with the ability level that he has.
This is the evaluating time of the year. We are all being evaluated, Jim included. Jim has done a great job. It’s going to be an intense offseason and a busy one. The ultimate goal is to make us a better ball club.
Riggleman has gone 29-42 since taking over the Nationals from Manny Acta and was 36-54 after taking over the Mariners from John McLaren last season. Obviously his combined 65-96 (.403) record in those two stints is hardly impressive, but consider that Washington and Seattle were a combined 51-108 (.320) before he came along. Over the course of a full season, that amounts to a 13-game improvement.
On the other hand Riggleman has now managed 1,245 major-league games for four different teams and has a lifetime 551-694 (.443) record, so while he may be good at turning historic awfulness into run-of-the-mill awfulness he hasn’t done much more than that with past chances. Riggleman is certainly a legitimate candidate for the full-time job, but my guess is that he’ll be part of the interview process before eventually giving way to a bigger, more fan-pleasing name.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.