Nationals give extension and promotion to GM Mike Rizzo

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The Nationals are in the midst of a disappointing follow-up campaign to their National League East title from last year, but general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s getting promoted.

The team announced this evening that Rizzo has signed a new long-term contract and has been promoted to the new title of GM and President of Baseball Operations. The length of the new contract isn’t yet known, but the Nationals already picked up his option for 2014 earlier this year.

Here’s a statement from Nationals owner Ted Lerner:

“Upon purchasing the Nationals, Mike Rizzo was our first hire and he has performed brilliantly. We started with an idea about how baseball teams should be built and he translated it into a reality far faster than many could have imagined. He knows the game, the players, and is a true professional. Under his direct leadership, the Nationals have become one of the most exciting and respected young teams in baseball.”

Rizzo joined the organization in 2007 as an assistant GM and took over the main job after Jim Bowden resigned in March of 2009. The Nationals lost 103 games that year, but it didn’t take long for them to get on the path to respectability. While Rizzo was fortunate enough to be in position to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper No. 1 overall in back-to-back years, he also made multiple key trades and signings en route an MLB-best 98 wins last year.

Of course, things haven’t been as rosy since Strasburg’s controversial shutdown. After being ousted in the NLDS by the Cardinals last October, the Nationals have disappointed with a 52-56 record this season, putting them 11 games behind the first-place Braves and 7 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. Just last week, hitting coach Rick Eckstein was fired against the wishes of manager Davey Johnson while Tyler Clippard criticized the organization’s handling of former closer Drew Storen. However, today’s announcement leaves little doubt that ownership feels the franchise is in the right hands for the long-term.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.