WASHINGTON – Faced with the Washington Nationals’ most crucial personnel decision in years, general manager Mike Rizzo bypassed the familiar for an outsider and eschewed experience for new blood. With their lofty aspirations intact after a disappointing season, Rizzo and the Nationals are betting Matt Williams, who has never managed in the major leagues, can lead them somewhere they’ve never been: the World Series.
The Nationals plan to hire Williams as their fifth manager since baseball returned to Washington, according to a person close to Williams and familiar with the situation. He will replace Davey Johnson, 70, who retired after the season.
Rizzo had been close to Williams since the early 2000s, when Rizzo served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ scouting director and Williams was finishing his playing career as a power-hitting third baseman.
Williams, 47, retired as a player in 2003 after hitting 378 home runs in 17 major-league seasons and has been a coach for the Diamondbacks the last four seasons.
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Williams will be the first person named in the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball’s first official documentation of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, to become a manager. Williams reportedly bought $11,600 worth of steroids and human growth hormone from a Florida clinic in 2002.
Report: Cubs, Wedge talk
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs’ managerial search has no shortage of movement among its extended list of candidates.
Former Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who has 10 seasons of experience, has spoken to the Cubs about their opening, a scouting source told the Chicago Tribune.
The Cubs are looking to replace fired Dale Sveum, who was 127-197 in two years.
Wedge, 45, joins a list of candidates that includes A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta, Rick Renteria and Dave Martinez.
• Pitcher Tim Lincecum, 29, finalized his $35 million, two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants after passing a physical. There had been speculation the ex-Washington Husky might play for the Mariners.
“Up until this year, I hadn’t really thought about it. I’ve always kind of looked at myself as a Giant, even a couple years ago when there were contract talks and two years before that,” Lincecum said. “Home is always going to be home to me. Maybe I’ll look at that route later on in life as a professional place. Personally, I wasn’t ready for that kind of jump.”
Lincecum is a two-time NL Cy Young Award and World Series winner.
Of returning to the Giants, he said, “I feel like we can do it again, and personally I feel like I can succeed there again.”
• The Kansas City Royals added former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, 50, as bench coach and hitting instructor. He worked as a special-assignment scout for the New York Yankees this year.
Compiled from The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press.