The Daily News spoke with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who addressed quotes attributed to him in a Washington Post column by Thomas Boswell.
"As far as the quote, yeah, that was either taken out of context or (Boswell) didn't hear it right.
"What I hate is the fact that the Phillies have had so much success at our expense. I respect the Phillies as much as any team in baseball.
"Chase Utley is one of my five favorite players. He plays the game the right way, with an edge. Were trying to emulate the Phillies. They play a style of baseball I love. We play them 18 times a year. It's a rivalry. It's going to be a real good rivalry in the future. It's a challenge playing against the best. They're the team were going to have to eventually knock off if we want to get to the top.
"I have nothing but respect for Ruben Amaro, Charlie Manuel and the Phillies. I love the way they play. We look forward to measuring ourselves against the best."
Asked if the statement was made, even in a joking way, Rizzo said, "There was none of that. I don't even remember saying anything like that."
Last week in Viera, former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth insisted he had no hard feelings against the team that allowed him to become a free agent last winter, repeatedly saying that it was just business.
Once Werth got back behind the cage, Rizzo said, "I hate the [expletive] Phillies." The GM then ran off a list of borderline dirty plays and purpose pitches in recent years by the Nats' nemesis. "I hate the Phillies, too," said Werth. Unspoken, but hanging in the air was a new idea for the Nats: So, let's play more like the Phillies: mean, grimy and a little nasty.
It's impossible to tell if they were kidding or serious. But it's at least a possible sign that the 18 games the NL East teams will play against each other this season could be pretty interesting.
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