Nationals GM doesn’t plan on having Castro back this season

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo says he doesn’t plan on having infielder Starlin Castro back with the team this season.

Castro was placed on administrative leave July 16 by Major League Baseball under its domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.

Rizzo, speaking with a group of reporters about a variety of issues prior to the Nationals’ game against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, didn’t say if his statement on Castro was based on whether the process will play out in time or not.

“The process is the process,” he said. “You asked the question, `Do I plan on having Starlin Castro back’ and I said I do not plan on having him back.”

The leave was imposed under the policy adopted by MLB and the players’ union in 2015 and can be the initial step leading to a longer suspension. The administrative leave – during which a player is paid but cannot play for up to seven days – has been extended for players under the policy in the past while MLB investigates an allegation.

Rizzo said he learned about the situation the night before Castro was placed on leave. He said he has not spoken with Castro.

“I was surprised,” Rizzo said. “I was angered by it. … it’s something that cannot happen and should not happen. It will not happen with the Washington Nationals otherwise we will fix it, and that was my thoughts at the time.”

Castro was accused of sexual assault in connection with a 2011 incident in Chicago but was not charged. Rizzo said Castro was vetted before the Nationals signed him to a two-year contract in January 2020.

“I was very disappointed when I found out the news. You know we do (vet potential acquisitions). We pride ourselves on – you’ve heard me say it a million times – you read about our guys in the sports section and not the other sections,” Rizzo said. “And this time we failed and I’m responsible for the players I put on the roster and on the field.”

“We did a lot of due diligence specifically with this player 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,” he said.

Rizzo said he spoke to the team following the Castro announcement.

“We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do better at this. The whole world has to do better at this,” Rizzo said he told the team. “And it’s unacceptable and 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.”

Castro, 31, was placed on the restricted list June 16 due to what manager Dave Martinez at the time said were “family matters.” Castro was reinstated two days later and pinch-hit in a game that night against the New York Mets.

“(That) had nothing to do with this issue at all,” Rizzo said.

Castro is hitting .283 with three home runs and 38 RBIs in 87 games this season. He is in his second year with the Nationals after stints with the Cubs, Yankees and Marlins.

Ohtani keeping watch on Angels’ offseason moves from afar

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SAN DIEGO – Even though Shohei Ohtani is back in Japan for the offseason, he has been in frequent contact with Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian about the team’s offseason moves.

“We talk a lot. He’s asking me daily who we’re getting,” Minasian said during baseball’s winter meetings. “He’s into it. We have a lot of players like that. Mike (Trout) and Anthony (Rendon) are like that. I think it’s a very motivated group.

“They want to see activity. They want to see the organization making a commitment to making the team better. We’ll see how it shakes out when we get to spring training what exactly we have, but we’re going to continue to look for opportunities to improve,” he said.

Minasian also reiterated his support for Ohtani taking whatever role he deems best for Japan during the World Baseball Classic in March. Ohtani said he is open to being a reliever.

“I don’t have any issue with whatever he does. He’s not one I’m worried about,” Minasian said. “He knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season. I know when the bell rings, he’ll be ready to go. There’s a comfort and trust to that.”

The Angels’ offseason moves, their future owner and the team’s performance will all be under the microscope as the two-way Japanese superstar begins his final season before hitting free agency.

Ohtani agreed to a $30 million contract for next season in September. After winning the AL MVP award in 2021, Ohtani finished second to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA on the mound and batting .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs.

Despite Arte Moreno putting the team up for sale, the Angels have been proactive since the season ended. They acquired outfielder Hunter Renfroe from the Milwaukee Brewers and infielder Gio Urshela from the Minnesota Twins. They upgraded the rotation by signing Tyler Anderson and added to the bullpen with Carlos Estevez.

Minasian said the message from ownership has been business as usual.

“I know we’ve spent more money, I guess. But I mean nothing’s been drastically different for me. I think there have been more things that have presented themselves that made sense, compared maybe in previous offseasons, where we were and what we were trying to do,” Minasian said.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that multiple groups have expressed interest in the Angels with a possibility that a sale could be completed by opening day.

Manager Phil Nevin also is on a one-year deal as the Angels try to end a string of seven consecutive losing seasons and eight consecutive years out of the postseason after going 73-89 this past season. Both are the longest active skids in the majors.