WASHINGTON -- Although the Nationals are 52-54 and 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East, don't look for general manager Mike Rizzo to be desperate and make major moves before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.
However, Rizzo is still looking to improve the team's bench, which is one of the worst in baseball. Earlier this month, he already added a veteran presence to the bench by acquiring outfielder Scott Hairston from the Cubs. Since the trade, Hairston is 2-for-17 (.118) and plays primarily against left-handed pitching. Overall, Hairston is batting .164 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs.
Adding a veteran left-handed hitter for the bench would help the Nationals. Current players such as Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi have not provided pop from the left side.
"We feel good about our core players and we feel that we're solid at our position players. We like our rotation, we like our bullpen arms," Rizzo said. "If we could tweak or improve certain spots on the bench, I think that would be one place that we would attack. But we've got ourselves a pretty talented group of guys that we're committed to, and we like where we're at.
"We're going to stay consistent with the same thought process we've had since 2009. We're always worried about this year and beyond. We never make decisions based on the current season alone, so that hasn't changed since I've taken over as GM. We're always thinking about this year, improving ourselves this year, but when we improve ourselves this year it will be this year and beyond."
Outside of adding depth to the bench, Rizzo wouldn't reveal anything else he was trying to accomplish before the Trade Deadline. With left-hander Ross Detwiler out for at least another month because of a back ailment, Dan Haren being inconsistent and Taylor Jordan on an innings limit, one would think that Washington would like to acquire another starting pitcher.
"Well you know we've got a lot of trade discussions," Rizzo said. "We've received calls, we've made calls. I'm not going to go much more into it than that other than we're going to do what we do at every trade deadline. We're going to try to improve this ballclub for 2013 and beyond."
Besides acquiring Hairston, the Nationals have tried other ways to improve the team. Because of their lack of offense this season, the Nationals dismissed Rick Eckstein as hitting coach last week and hired Rick Shu. Rizzo was hoping a new voice would turn the offense around. The team has won three straight and scored 20 runs during the span. After Friday's doubleheader, the Nationals optioned reliever Drew Storen to Triple-A Syracuse. He is having his worst season, and the Nationals are looking for him to fix his mechanics in Syracuse.
"We feel that sending him down there, getting him in a less stressful situation, getting him with Spin Williams and Greg Booker, who've had him before … I think it will benefit him," Rizzo said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.