Mike Rizzo remains optimistic baseball will be played in 2020

Todd Dybas
NBC Sports Washington

Things have slowed in Mike Rizzo's world to a steady drumbeat of checking in and wondering what's next.

No players or staff are showing symptoms of coronavirus. He's happy with the amount of meals being pumped out of Nationals Park by José Andrés' World Central Kitchen and Nationals Philanthropies. He's unsure exactly when the MLB draft will be happening. He feels good about the Nationals' player maintenance plan. And, last, his optimism remains.

"I'm optimistic, as is the commissioner, that we'll have baseball in 2020," Rizzo said Friday on a conference call. "I'm upbeat about that. I think the most important thing is to do it in the right way, the safest manner we can. But I believe that we will have baseball."

Rizzo's comments echo what he has said for weeks during updates with reporters. His optimism about a prospective season -- who knows in what form -- comes from an internal hope and belief. It's not because he's seen a specific plan or is using insider knowledge to form his opinion.

ESPN reported earlier in the week that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told many across the sport "I fully anticipate baseball will return this season." It's no surprise to hear Manfred say that. He'll hold that front until it's impossible not to. The league and players will try to find any way to safely create a season. Already, the revenue challenges of not playing are beginning to mount.

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Here's what else Rizzo touched on Friday:

-- As previously announced, Rizzo reiterated the Nationals organization will pay its employees through the end of May.

"It's an evolving situation," Rizzo said. "Nobody knows how it's going to play out. But, we're grateful to the Lerner family for their loyalty."

Rizzo said the organization has not brought up the idea of asking higher-paid employees to take a reduction in salary.

-- By the end of the week, more than 100,000 meals will have been prepared and distributed by the work of Andrés' kitchen and the organization. "Which is pretty remarkable in my opinion," Rizzo said.

-- A wrinkle with the draft this year isn't just its unknown date. The high school season was also largely wiped out. So, would that prevent the Nationals from taking a high school player who could not participate in his senior season?

"We have seen many, many high school players that we like and they will be in consideration in this draft," Rizzo said. "We will put them on the board as we see how they rank. We'll do all our due diligence on high school and college players. We're certainly not going to segregate a full slice of our participation pool via high school players because we had to shut down the season early on."

Rizzo went on to point out players in bad weather locations go through this situation in general. Looks can be limited, but it's the years of history from area scouts which matters.

-- Rizzo said the health of starting pitchers will be the top concern when determining how much time a "Phase 2" of spring training will need. Max Scherzer recently told NBC Sports Washington that three weeks would be the preferred minimum in order to give pitchers four starts before the season opens.

-- Since he doesn't know how the schedule would look, Rizzo wouldn't commit to whether the extra time off is beneficial to a veteran team which played all the way to the end last season.

"I think we went into this thing thinking that we've got a really good, powerful team that should contend for another world championship," Rizzo said. "Nothing has changed in my mind to counteract that."

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Mike Rizzo remains optimistic baseball will be played in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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