- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2009

Seeking to put his own stamp on the organization while bringing a new direction to a farm system that was sluggish in churning out position players this season, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday the team has fired farm director Bobby Williams and minor league hitting coach Ralph Dickenson.

Williams, who was fired Friday, could be reassigned to another role within the organization, but Dickenson is leaving the Nationals, Rizzo said. He also said there could be more changes to the farm system.

“Those are two vital parts of player development,” Rizzo said. “I want to get people in there that I know well and I trust and that are going to implement my ideas and my systems throughout the minor leagues. I just feel a change needed to be made.”

While Rizzo said he isn’t planning a massive overhaul of the farm system, there do figure to be more shakeups in a farm system that has moved precious few position players to the major leagues. Class AAA Syracuse shortstop Ian Desmond could make his major league debut this month, but most of the Nationals’ top position players - Chris Marrero, Michael Burgess and Derek Norris, to name a few - are still at Class AA or lower.

“Certain players haven’t developed the way we thought they were,” Rizzo said. “That’s often not the fault of the farm director. It’s the fault of the player himself, often. It’s just that my system and the way I want to do things needs to be implemented the way I want it to be implemented.”

Given the other hires Rizzo needs to make (like an assistant general manager and a permanent field manager), replacing Williams and Dickenson probably won’t be at the top of his priority list. He said he’ll start with a list of people he has worked with in his time as a scout and an executive and hope to have the positions filled this winter.

“I’m very satisfied with many of the people we’ve got in scouting and player development and the front office,” Rizzo said. “There’s just a few tweaks that we’re going to fix, and we’ll see where that leads us.”

Riggleman happy with duo

Despite concerns over the defensive limitations of first baseman Adam Dunn and shortstop Cristian Guzman, interim manager Jim Riggleman said he is satisfied with both and can see each player going into next season starting at his current position.

Riggleman did not rule out the prospect of moving the 31-year-old Guzman to second base if the Nationals find a solid shortstop in the offseason but said the plan is for Dunn to enter 2010 as the starter at first base rather than move back to the outfield.

“He’s played pretty good,” Riggleman said. “We’re probably getting closer to the point where, if we’re winning the ballgame, just leave Adam in at first base. He’s played it much better. He’s made improvement; he’s earned the right to stay on the field throughout the ballgame.”

Guzman has shown some regression in his range at shortstop this season, particularly on grounders to his left, but Riggleman said Guzman is still a solid fielder and he wasn’t ready to concede that Guzman would have to move.

“It’s not as easy as just saying we’ll put somebody at second,” Riggleman said. “You kind of assume that a guy who’s a shortstop probably can play other places on the field, but there are some guys who just seem at home at short and you can’t picture them playing second. I haven’t given enough thought to picture in my mind whether that would be something we’d want to do or if Cristian could do. He’s a good infielder with a good arm. He’s got a shortstop’s arm. It’ll probably be determined by the makeup of the ballclub next year.”

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