The Nationals’ depth is evidenced by a bench that you would feel comfortable starting if the need arises.
Guys like Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina and Kurt Suzuki (or Wilson Ramos) all can start, whether to give another starter a day off or as an injury replacement.
One player trying to crack into that rotation is a still young and yet very experienced Carlos Rivero.
The 24-year old right-handed-hitting third baseman had his best season as a pro in 2012 with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Rivero hit .303 in 126 games with 28 doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 64 RBIs. He had an OBP of .347.
This winter, the 6-foot-3, 215 lb. Rivero continued to hit well in Venezuela, batting .283 with 14 doubles, 10 homers and 35 RBIs in 55 games. Not many players play 55 games in winter ball. So that is a total of 181 games from April to December for Rivero.
However, Rivero is out of options and will have to make the Nationals out of spring training or be exposed to waivers.
But Syracuse manager Tony Beasley has loved what he has seen from Rivero within the Nats organization.
“He made tremendous strides last year,” Beasley said. “He is a guy that fully understands his situation, being a young guy that got on the roster very early. His options got depleted by getting invited to the major league camps before he was really competing for a job. That was an unfortunate situation for him to be in. But here he is.”
Most of that happened before the Nationals found him as a castoff by the Phillies in 2011. Previously, he had spent his career in the Indians organization. Rivero had signed with Cleveland in 2005.
Beasley knows the odds are stacked against Rivero because the Nationals have depth at every position on the 25-man roster. But Rivero has youth and versatility on his side.
“I don’t know what kind of opportunities the Nationals will have on that level because they signed Adam LaRoche back and they have Ryan Zimmerman,” Beasley said. “We have a host of utility guys and the outfield is set. But he can play third, short and first. He actually was drafted as a shortstop.
Beasley also noticed a jump in Rivero’s work at the plate. He hit .232 in 2010, .270 in 2011 and then .303 with the Chiefs over the course of an entire season. Beasley said they worked on getting Rivero to focus right up the middle past second base to make contact and the hits came.
“The biggest thing is his offensive improvement, which he did last year,” Beasley said. “We tried to keep him in the middle of the field mentally and just react to balls in. When he tries to pull balls, he tends to swing and miss at breaking balls in and out of the zone. He made some tremendous adjustments to that, he was able to cut down the strikeouts a little bit and he hit for more power.
“Defensively, at third base he was really, really good. He has a really nice arm and can make the play up the line. If it is a backhand play, he has plenty of arm strength to finish it.”
Overall, Beasley said Rivero has a lot of the tools you look for in a major leaguer, and this spring training will be an opportunity for the Venezuelan to try to prove he deserves a roster spot. And if not with the Nationals, his March games could help showcase him for another team in need of a versatile fielder with a good bat.
“Good kid that works hard,” Beasley said of Rivero. “He is a competitor. He is still young. It is amazing where he is at at his age and he is behind the eight-ball because he was on the roster so early. He is a guy you root for. I hope there is a scenario that fits to where he can come in and compete and have a chance to make our ballclub. If not, find himself somewhere else in a major league scenario.”