Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo sounds very much like someone prepared to enter next season with Jonathan Papelbon as his closer, despite the pitcher's dugout brouhaha with NL MVP Bryce Harper last September.
While not ruling out trading Papelbon, Rizzo spoke glowingly about the righthander during a conference call Saturday, a day after Washington sent former closer Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Ben Revere.
"We see Papelbon as being one of our late-inning relievers. He's been very effective at it his entire career, including last year, except for the last portion of the season," Rizzo said. "This guy's a quality reliever, quality closer."
Papelbon, a six-time All-Star acquired from Philadelphia in July, is guaranteed $11 million for 2016.
His arrival in Washington meant Storen — who had converted 29 save chances and had a 1.73 ERA at the time — was shifted to an eighth-inning role. Storen struggled and finished the season with a 3.44 ERA. His season ended in September when he broke his right thumb.
As for Revere, Rizzo said the player's exact role "remains to be seen." The GM praised Revere's defensive ability in center field — aside from acknowledging less-than-ideal arm strength — and skills as a contact hitter and base stealer.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler will be sidelined to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery but hinted at a specific return date.
"I said from the beginning of June or July," Wheeler said. "That's still the timetable for me. There's this process; you never know if you're going to have setbacks. They could be late, could be earlier. You never know."
Wheeler was 18-17 with a 3.50 ERA in 49 career starts before undergoing surgery last March.
Griffey's next honor
The Mariners will honor Ken Griffey Jr. by retiring his No. 24 throughout the organization — including the minors. They will do that during a ceremony in August about two weeks after he's inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.