VIERA, Fla. - Faced with too many pitchers and dwindling innings, and preparing to start playing his regulars deeper into games, Davey Johnson announced another round of eight cuts at Nationals camp before Monday’s Grapefruit League game against the Detroit Tigers.
Right-handers Ryan Perry and Erik Davis, first baseman Chris Marrero, catcher Jhonatan Solano and outfielder Corey Brown were optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, and right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and infielder Zach Walters were reassigned to minor league camp.
The moves leave the Nationals with 34 players in major league camp.
None of the moves were a surprise, given that the Nats know, barring injury, pretty much their whole 25-man opening day roster. But the cuts give Johnson the latitude to get more innings out of Triple-A pitchers who will be insurance policies during the season and clear the way for his regulars to get increased playing time over the last two weeks of spring training.
Walters, who hit .297 with two homers and four RBIs this spring, and Davis, who went 1-0 with a 1.97 ERA and a save in seven relief outings in Florida, clearly made positive impressions.
“I really like Zach,” Johnson said. “He reminds me a lot of where (Ian) Desmond was at two or three years ago. I think his upside has got tremendous ability and he is learning who he is. He know what he needs to do and I think this spring has been good for him.”
Davis will be used at the back end of Syracuse manager Tony Beasley’s bullpen and could be used to close games. The right-hander, a converted starter, picked up his save Sunday against the Tigers in Lakeland.
“He has big league stuff, it’s the command of both those pitches,” Johnson said of Davis. “It’s all about controlling your emotions and staying within yourself, reading hitters, reading situations and pitching accordingly. That comes from experience. But he’s been impressive.”
Maya, Perry and Ohlendorf wouldn’t have had enough opportunities to pitch with Nationals starters now going four or more innings in games. Marrero was stuck behind Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore on the first base depth chart, while Brown was the victim of a star-packed outfield and Solano an odd man out with Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki in the majors.
“This is where you want to be. ... Corey Brown, Zach Walters, Marrero - all of them have the talent to be very good, productive big league players,” said Johnson. “That’s why they’re here. But they’re not polished, completely polished. They’re not still doing the things I know they’re capable of doing.”
One surprise not included in today’s cuts is Micah Owings, the former pitcher trying to transition to a first baseman/outfielder. Johnson said Owings was battling a quad problem that would keep him out of action until Wednesday, but that he’d like to get a longer look at the veteran, both at the plate and in the field.
Update: The Nationals have granted veteran catcher Chris Snyder his unconditional release, and there are now 33 players in camp. Snyder hit .222 with a homer and two RBIs in eight games. With Ramos apparently healthy enough to make the opening day roster, and plenty of catching depth, there apparently wasn’t room for Snyder in the organization. He’ll try to hook on with another club over the next couple of weeks.
Update: Well, that didn’t take long. Snyder has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels that includes an invitation to their major league camp.