WASHINGTON -- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo addressed the local media Saturday afternoon, and he said the first priority was to hire a manager to replace Davey Johnson. Rizzo declined to give any details regarding the managerial search.
Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr and third-base coach Trent Jewett are considered strong candidates for the job, along with D-Backs third-base coach Matt Williams.
"The manager is going to have an input on what we do with the roster," Rizzo said.
Rizzo mentioned that another priority was to sign shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to extensions. Zimmermann and Desmond were willing to sign extensions last offseason but were not willing to take a team discount.
"Desi is one of our core players; he is one of our leaders on the team," Rizzo said. "If there is a deal out there that we could get done, that would keep him here for the long-term, he is certainly up there in the priority list. But it has to be a deal we could both live with.
"Zimmermann is one of our own. We drafted, developed and signed him. He is one of the good pitchers in the league. We certainly like to keep him long-term."
Rizzo also said he was pleased to see the team play better baseball after the All-Star break. From Aug. 9 up until Friday's game against the D-Backs, the Nationals had a 31-15 record, the best in baseball during that span.
"These guys pulled themselves up on their boot straps, when our low water mark was six games under .500, and we played extremely well," Rizzo said. "To me, that showed the character of a champion, although we didn't play like a champion early enough in the season. But we finished with a flourish, and it's going to set us up well going into the winter and next Spring Training."
Rizzo acknowledged that the Nationals were looking to improve the bench and parts of the bullpen. It is not a secret they are looking for quality lefties out of the bullpen.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.