VIERA, Fla. (CBSDC) — After their 7-3 win over the New York Mets at Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday, the Washington Nationals made several roster moves as they continue to trim the roster down with opening day now just five days away.
The Nationals optioned first baseman Tyler Moore, left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno and right-handed pitcher Ryan Mattheus to Triple-A Syracuse and they released infielder Jamey Carroll and right-hander Chris Young. They had released left handed pitcher Michael Gonzalez before the start of the game.
The Nats also told right hander Aaron Barrett, who was a closer at Double-A Harrisburg last year, he had made the team.
Barrett was outstanding this spring throwing 9 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He did not walk a batter while striking out seven.
“We look at Aaron and the way he has gone about his business and we contemplated Xavier and having three lefties out pen potentially, but Aaron showed us that he is able to compete at this level,” said Nats skipper Matt Williams. “He’s attacked guys and he’ll be a valuable piece to our bullpen and get in a lot of games for us.”
With Barrett, the bullpen is all but set with Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano joining him.
That leaves the battle for the fifth starter spot between Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, with the one who loses out being optioned to Triple-A Syracuse unless Doug Fister suffers a setback as he recovers from elbow inflammation.
Fister is scheduled to throw in a minor league game the next time out and possibly one more hut as of right now. He looks to be on track to make a scheduled start on April 6th against the Braves.
Williams has been on the other side of it as a player, but in his first year as a manager having to release Carroll was not an easy decision.
“That was the toughest one so far,” he said. “He’s a professional player but I didn’t really see that happening for us. That being said, I don’t want to keep it and make it go down to the last minute, down to the wire. There are other teams out there looking for a middle infielder and I will certainly allow him to do that and help him do that of we can.”
The release of Carroll means Danny Espinosa will be part of the team’s bench, barring a trade of some kind between now and the start of the season.
“It was not necessarily a competition between Jamey and Danny,” Williams said. “I just didn’t see Jamey staying with us and I didn’t want to hold him up so is it a vote of confidence for Danny? Sure.
Moore found himself in a tough spot with Scott Hairston looking to be the back-up right handed hitting outfielder. If the Nats keep with their plan to give third baseman Ryan Zimmerman some starts at first place, there would be very little playing time for Moore and the Nats want him to get as many at bats as possible.
“Right now for him it’s about at bats and getting him consistent ones,” Williams said. “And if we make that decision at some point in the season, he will have been playing and having timing and all of that. It’s tough when you aren’t getting those at bats and he’s a player that needs them to stay sharp.”
It was basically the same kind of dilemma for Mattheus who was hampered this spring with inflammation of the ribs and chest. He has pitched in just three games in the spring and Williams told him he needs to get innings in and build his arm strength up.
“I can’t expect him to go out and give us multiple innings if he hasn’t done that and the opportunity to do that over the next two or three days, isn’t going to be there.” Williams said.
“He understands he was behind the eight ball from the beginning anyway. It’s not an easy conversation to have but we told him to be ready and he said he would. He said he was going to take the approach that he’s going down there to get ready and he’s going to be ready when we call.”
The moves also mean Jeff Kobernus and catcher Sandy Leon as still in the mix for bench jobs.
Kobernus is a speed guy that is an extra right handed bat off the bench while Leon gives the opportunity for the Nats to use three catchers on the roster which would free up Wilson Ramos or Jose Lobaton to pinch hit on days they aren’t in the starting lineup.