A pair of former College of William & Mary standouts, Will Rhymes and Bill Bray, will be looking to make the Nationals out of spring training.
Second baseman Rhymes is a non-roster invitee who most recently played for the Tampa Bay Rays. The 5-foot-9, 155-lb. infielder is a career .266 hitter with 23 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs in 130 games. He broke in with the Detroit Tigers in 2010, and played 83 games in Motown.
He was MiLB.com organization All-Star with the Tigers for 2010 and has made four minor All-Star appearances in his career.
Left-hander Bray is no stranger to the Nationals. After being traded to the Reds in the deal for Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez in 2007, Bray returns to the Nationals after six seasons in Cincinnati. The 6-foot-3, 230-lb. southpaw is looking to return from back and groin injuries that slowed his 2012 campaign. He has a 13-12 career record with a 3.74 ERA in 258 games. He was originally drafted by the Expos in 2004.
The Nationals system also features outfielder Chris Rahl, who played collegiately at William & Mary. Rahl hit .291 in 92 games with 12 homers and 50 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg last season. A foot injury ended his season prematurely on July 27.
Jamie Pinzino was an assistant in Williamsburg, Va., last season and enters his first season as head coach at William & Mary. He knows about the legacy of Bray and Rhymes and what they mean to the program.
"I have heard a lot about both of those guys and what they meant to the program while they were here," Pinzino said. "The school has done a great job as far as putting guys up there that have been drafted and get to the minors and some that make it as far as the majors. It has been pretty impressive."
Pinzino said the work of former coaches, especially Jim Farr, helped build the program and get guys like Rahl, Rhymes and Bray. Farr won 373 games in 13 seasons as coach at William & Mary and also coached at Maryland.
"You have to give credit to the coaching staff and their ability to evaluate guys and their ability to recruit those guys here," Pinzino said. "The coach that recruited those guys, Jim Farr, is now a scout for the Royals. Of course, you have to give credit to these individuals."
Pinzino said Bray, Rahl and Rhymes had to be good baseball players to get where they are today, but the William & Mary experience for them was also integral to their success now.
"One of the things I like about this place is it forces you to be competitive, not just from a baseball standpoint," Pinzino said. "It is a quality mid-major Division I program.
"You factor in the academics and the fact that these students have done well already up to this point, so it forces guys to compete and gain confidence in classroom and on the baseball field. I think that does something to them as baseball players. I talk a lot about that to our players and our recruits that I think that is one of the biggest benefits of this place."
Bray provides experience in the bullpen for the Nationals, especially with the loss of Sean Burnett to the Angels. Rhymes will be in the mix for a utility role as a back up to Ian Desmond, Steve Lombardozzi and Danny Espinosa.