Rizzo proud of tested Nationals' perseverance

GM chats with MLB.com about state of team as Trade Deadline nears

Rizzo proud of tested Nationals' perseverance

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Thursday, MLB.com caught up with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to get his take on the team.

MLB.com: What do you like about the 2014 Nationals?

Mike Rizzo: I like everything about them. They are a group of guys that have come together. We had some adversity throughout all the trials and tribulations. We've had a positive attitude. We've had good camaraderie and good chemistry in the clubhouse. That's never wavered. That's the way we constructed this team. I really like the fact that throughout all the injuries that we had, we have the depth and personnel to persevere and get through it.

MLB.com: On May 24, the Nationals were 24-25. In your mind, were you worried?

Rizzo: No, I wasn't worried. How can you even evaluate where we were then? Four guys from the middle of the lineup -- Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos -- were out. We had one starting pitcher [Gio Gonzalez] out of our rotation [because of an injury]. We had to persevere and grind through it. It's a testament to what [manager] Matt Williams had done -- keeping the guys positive, keeping them focused. It was a testament to the extra guys -- Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, Scotty Hairston. They have played with the absence of a lot of the main guys for an extended period of time. We got through it pretty good.

MLB.com: What has impressed you about Williams?

Rizzo: First of all, his baseball IQ is extraordinary. His calmness and leadership has really been tested, and it has really shown through.

MLB.com: The Nationals are currently in first place. What is the team's biggest need, and what would you like to acquire before the Trade Deadline?

Rizzo: We love the team that we have. We feel the team that we have currently is good enough to play meaningful games at the end of the season. We constructed this team with injuries in mind. That's the reason that we have the roster that we have. Our biggest need is to play effectively, be who we are. If we play to our standards, then we should be fine.

MLB.com: With Zimmerman out with a hamstring injury, do you feel you need to acquire another third baseman?

Rizzo: We have a great third baseman. His name is Anthony Rendon. We have another Gold Glove-caliber guy. His name is Ryan Zimmerman, who is going to be back soon. We feel pretty confident, especially at that position. We like our depth, and we like the way our roster has been constructed. We like the guys that will have to step up and play to their potential. I think we have the man power to do it.

MLB.com: There is also a report that you could try to improve the bullpen.

Rizzo: We're pretty good. We are solid there.

MLB.com: So you are saying you are not going to acquire anyone to help the bullpen?

Rizzo: I don't know who we are going to acquire or not going to acquire. We don't have any pressing needs. We like the team that we put together right now. They are jelling, we are starting to flow and get some rhythm in our lineup. The rotation has been great. The bullpen has been great. We like where we are at.

MLB.com: What is your most pleasant surprise this season?

Rizzo: I think the most pleasant surprise is how together this ballclub remained with our main guys out of the lineup. I think that's the thing that has impressed me the most. It made me the happiest and most proud. It could have been easy to fall apart. When you miss that many games by your big boys, things could have gone south. Matt wouldn't allow it. The leaders on this team -- Zim, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond -- wouldn't let it happen.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.