- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mike Rizzo’s remodeling of the Washington Nationals’ roster and his deft handling of the Stephen Strasburg negotiations has earned him the permanent general manager’s title.

Rizzo, who has served as Washington’s acting GM since March, will be given the full-time job Thursday, a club source confirmed Wednesday night.

The 49-year-old was chosen from a pool of candidates that included Arizona Diamondbacks vice president Jerry Dipoto and Boston Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer after a lengthy evaluation process that seemed to change course as the summer played out.

Rizzo, a lifelong scout who spent the previous 2 1/2 seasons as the Nationals’ assistant GM and chief draft evaluator, wasn’t always seen as the likely choice. As recently as Tuesday night, an Internet report claimed the club was on the verge of hiring Dipoto, setting off a flurry of speculation around baseball.

Rizzo, though, continued to make a strong impression on Washington’s ownership group, from his reshaping of the club’s struggling bullpen to his widely applauded acquisition of Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this summer.

The clincher, though, was his ability to negotiate with agent Scott Boras and sign No. 1 draft pick Strasburg less than two minutes before Monday night’s deadline. The former San Diego State right-hander, touted as the best pitching prospect to come out of college in decades, agreed to a four-year, $15.1 million deal that set a record for draft picks, but Rizzo was lauded for getting the deal done at what was still considered a reasonable price.

Rizzo was the point man for negotiations with Boras down to the 12:01 a.m. deadline and has been trumpeted by team officials since.

Handed the reins to Washington’s baseball operations department after former GM Jim Bowden resigned March 1, Rizzo was essentially operating as GM despite no change in his formal title. He has been at the forefront, though, of all the club’s major decisions since, whether it involved roster alterations, trades or the firings of manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

The Nationals got off to a horrible start to the season and entered the All-Star break on pace to lose 116 games. But they’ve taken off in the second half under interim manager Jim Riggleman, going 17-14 before back-to-back losses the past two nights to the Colorado Rockies.

With Strasburg due to be introduced to media and fans at a Nationals Park press conference on Friday, it seemed unlikely the organization would make an announcement about its GM search until the weekend at the earliest.

But the decision having been made by ownership, the Nationals elected to give Rizzo his day in front of the cameras Thursday and then introduce his most significant signing the following day.