MORE THAN a decade ago, when Matt Williams was still a third baseman and Mike Rizzo was still climbing the front-office rungs, the future general manager thought he noticed the makings of a future skipper.

Well, here they are. Williams will make his debut as a major league manager with the Washington Nationals, a hiring announced by Rizzo yesterday.

"Matt played with intensity as a player, but he also was a terrific teammate. You talk to the guys that he played with, and they swear by him. He was always team first, and self second,'' Rizzo said.

Rizzo was a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks' front office when the expansion team entered the majors in 1998, and he became their scouting director 2 years later along the way to becoming Washington's GM. Williams played in Arizona from 1998-2003, part of a 17-year career that also included time with the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians.

Williams, a five-time All-Star, is the first player mentioned in the Mitchell Report - the accounting of baseball's Steroids Era that was released in December 2007 - to become a manager in the majors. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Williams said in an interview a doctor advised him to try growth hormone to heal a severe ankle injury during spring training that year.

Williams. replaces the retired Davey Johnson.