Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells Junkies: Josiah Gray improved poise, stuff big in growing year for young pitcher


What was one big lesson The Junkies took from their visit to watching a game with Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo from his suite at Nats Park? Even when the Nationals are up 12-0 on the lowly Chicago White Sox, Rizzo hates it when relievers walk batters.

"I don't like when relievers come in and walk guys, it's a big taboo for me," Rizzo said on Wednesday during his weekly appearance with 106.7 The Fan's The Sports Junkies, which is presented exclusively by our partners at MainStreet Bank — Cheer Local. Bank Local. Put Our Team in Your Office.

"It's part of the game I know, but I was always taught, big league pitchers, when you get to the big leagues you should be able to throw a strike whenever you want to and it bothers me when relievers come in and walk people. It's my pet peeve," the GM added.

Josiah Gray made what could likely be his final start of the season in Baltimore on Tuesday and was a tough-luck loser in a 1-0 game with the only run coming across via a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first by the likely AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson. But on the year, it was a solid season from the Nats' young right-hander: A 3.91 ERA (4.94 FIP) over 159.0 innings and 30 starts with 143 strikeouts (8.1 per nine innings). Of course, the walks (80), walks per nine (4.5) and WHIP (1.459) remained high from last season but he cut down on home runs allowed from 38 to 22.

"[Last night] was another good step in his development," Rizzo said about the one-run outing that saw him allow five runs and two walks with seven strikeouts over six innings against the Orioles. "He realizes the walks are a critical part of his success and he needs to improve on that, but he has improved on that a little bit, he has, obviously, improved on his home run ratio, and his stuff is better, his poise is better, he attacks the strike zone. He's got some swing-and-miss pitches. He's made a great transition. It was a good growing year for him.

"He made it through the season at 30 starts and we're hoping next year he just takes it and runs with it and hits that 180-200 innings and we don't have to monitor him, we don't have to worry about him, we don't have to do anything just give him the ball every five days and let him roll."

Before concluding their conversation, Rizzo talked a little bit about the National League playoff picture and the exciting postseason coming up and looking forward to catching up on his (really bad) Chicago Bears team. Listen to the full conversation on the audio player above.

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