foggybotom: After the moves made thus far this offseason, what position(s) would you still like to upgrade?
Mike Rizzo: Even with the addition of a quality back of the bullpen arm like Brian Bruney and a veteran catcher like Ivan Rodriguez, I still feel it is important to address the starting pitching, bullpen arms and middle infield defense. As was evident at the end of the 2009 season, and with the addition of defensive stalwart Nyjer Morgan, we've placed a great emphasis on defensive efficiency and run prevention.
Natsfan1: What is the Nationals' current level of interest in Bryce Harper?
Rizzo: Bryce has been identified as one of the elite players to consider in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft for 2010. He has been and will continue to be scouted and evaluated very closely and is on the Nationals' radar along with a handful of other top prospects.
goinggoinggone2: How is Roger Bernadina progressing from his ankle injury?
Rizzo: Roger has been cleared to participate fully in all baseball activity. He started participating again as far back as the instructional league in October.
sen8tors: Hi, Mike. Would the Nationals consider switching back to using the "Senators" as their team name?
Rizzo: As far as I'm concerned, I am quite pleased to be known as the Washington Nationals. That said, we are always cognizant and respectful of those that came before us in what is an area with a rich baseball history.
jcj5y: Has the team kept in close contact with Stephen Strasburg since the end of the AFL? How is his rehab progressing?
Rizzo: We have been monitoring Stephen very carefully since the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League. We are pleased to say that his rehabilitation and strengthening program has been very successful and we fully expect Stephen to be 100 percent healthy to participate at the beginning of Major League Spring Training.
natsfan22: The Justin Maxwell I saw in September impressed me with how improved he looked. Do you see him playing a bigger roll this season?
Rizzo: We believe that Justin has grown as a player both on and off the field and fully anticipate him competing for playing time with the other talented outfielders we have. His makeup and positive attitude have been contagious in our clubhouse setting.
vanatsfan5: It was reported that you attended Aroldis Chapman's workout. What was your impression of him?
Rizzo: Aroldis is an extremely talented, athletic left-handed pitcher with a ceiling as high as any current amateur pitcher in the world. He has great arm strength and velocity on his fastball and is just in his infancy as a frontline Major League prospect.
DCJohn: Last year the Nationals invited 87 players to Spring Training. The norm is much lower. How many players do you intend to invite this year?
Rizzo: The current status of the franchise allows us to be much more selective in the process of Major League Spring Training invites. By doing this, it allows the players who are there extended looks, at-bats and innings to prove themselves. I see the numbers that are invited to Spring Training to be fewer than in the past.
rstbef: Are there any plans to sign a veteran middle infielder? Who?
Rizzo: It is on our priority list of things to do. The player to fill that position could vary but we understand with the makeup of our club we need to improve in that spot. The upgrade could come from a number of different ways -- be it by in-house candidate, trade or free-agent acquisition.
goinggoinggone2: Do you see Shairon Martis in the mix for an opportunity to be in the starting rotation?
Rizzo: Shairon will come to Spring Training competing for a rotation spot with a number of other talented candidates. As a 22-year-old, he performed well in the early portion of 2009 and with another year of experience under his belt we believe he will take the next step in his development in '10.
Rizzo: We only have time for one more question.
joshdc: What criteria are you looking for as you consider adding starting pitching to the 2010 roster?
Rizzo: The pitchers that we are looking for to join the Nationals must be of high character, with successful and consistent histories who are willing to share their experiences and wisdom with our deep stable of young arms.
Rizzo: Thanks for your questions. Happy holidays to all of you ... only 64 days until pitchers and catchers report.