- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mike Rizzo will retain the title of assistant general manager of the Washington Nationals but will take over the day-to-day responsibilities of running the major league team until a permanent replacement for Jim Bowden is named.

Team president Stan Kasten made the announcement this morning alongside Rizzo, who won’t get an “interim” title. Kasten said the move would help the team have a sense of stability in the front office for a while.

Kasten said the Nationals sent an e-mail to the other 29 clubs letting them know to contact Rizzo with trade proposals about the major league club.

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The move lends credence to the thought that Kasten is leading toward a wide search to replace Bowden, who resigned on Sunday. Executives around baseball still expect Rizzo to land the job, but Kasten has received plenty of phone calls from interested potential candidates, such as Tampa Rays assistant general manager Gerry Hunsicker and Texas Rangers senior adviser John Hart, according to multiple sources.

“Mike is a guy that I have a lot of confidence in,” Kasten said. “At some point, I have to do a search, and a search will progress. But I don’t feel any rush at all. There’s no particular urgency or timetable for that.”

Assistant general manager Bob Boone will retain his role overseeing the minor-league operation, and scouting director Dana Brown will continue in his current role. Kasten, meanwhile, said he expects to be more involved in baseball operations.

Rizzo said his goal is to be a major-league general manager, and though it’s not tantamount to an audition, he will get a chance to lay the groundwork for a full-time job, whether it’s with the Nationals or another team.

Last week, while Bowden still had his job with the club, Rizzo was given the task of shutting down the Nationals’ Dominican operation at Jose Rijo’s facility, finding a new home for the program that boasts three dozen teenage prospects and organize the move from one complex to the other - all in the span of three days.

He then returned to Viera to be trumpeted by Kasten and put on public display to receive accolades.

Rizzo’s background is in scouting and player development, the main reason the Nationals hired him away from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, shortly after the Lerner family took control of the franchise. When he first arrived in the District, there was immediate speculation he would be the club’s GM-in-waiting and take over for Bowden someday.

And he’ll have plenty to keep him busy through the spring and first part of the season. Owners of both the first and 10th overall picks in the MLB draft, the Nationals have a rare opportunity to draft two players who could have a major impact on the club’s long-term fortunes.

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