VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals have made their first round of cuts, sending left-handed pitchers Bill Bray, Will Ohman and Brandon Mann, and right-hander Tanner Roark to minor league camp.
Bray and Ohman, brought in on minor league deals, were hopeful of winning a role in the Nats' bullpen.
Mechanical issues set Bray back this spring, and he allowed three runs (two earned), five hits and a walk in two innings of work. Ohman battled a hamstring injury that slowed him over the last week, and he allowed two hits and two walks in his spring debut today.
With the Nationals' starters beginning to work deeper into games as spring training goes along, manager Davey Johnson cited the lack of available innings as a reason for the cuts.
Despite the decision to send Bray to minor league camp, Johnson said that he still views the veteran lefty as a guy who could help the Nationals this season, and didn't rule out the idea of Bray rejoining the Nats later in spring and making the opening day roster.
"In Bray's case, (pitching coach Steve) McCatty felt that he could work out some of the mechanical problems under a less stressful situation and more regular work," Johnson said. "We still like him a lot, like his makeup, like everything about him, but we'd like to get him back a little more to his form when he was here.
"I would love to keep him (in the organization) and let him work some things over there out and call him back even during the spring as we progress."
Johnson said that in his talk with Bray, he mentioned Zach Duke and Michael Gonzalez as examples of pitchers who got time in a minor league environment within the Nationals' organization and worked their way back to the big leagues.
Bray did not disagree with Johnson and McCatty's assessment of where he stands, saying that he's still struggling to find the proper arm slot after a groin injury suffered last season threw his mechanics out of whack.
"In a lot of ways, he's right," Bray said. "When that bell goes off out there, you compete with what you've got, and you can't go out there and worry about your mechanics.
"I think anybody who's watched me who's seen me pitch before knows that it's still not quite where it needs to be. The velocity's ticking up a bit for me, my arm strength is there, my leg and back feels good. All the pieces are there, I've just got to put it together."
Bray did not think that he had an opt-out in his contract, and was prepared to accept the assignment to minor league camp.
Johnson was under the impression that Ohman does has an opt-out, which would allow him to refuse the assignment.
"His hamstring was a drawback for him," Johnson said of Ohman. "Again, I'm running out of innings to have for him to be able to have a fair shot up here."
The departures of Bray, Ohman and Mann leave Fernando Abad as the only left-handed reliever in big league camp still in competition for the final spot in the Nationals' bullpen. Duke is slotted as the left-handed long reliever, but the Nats are still looking for one more reliever - preferably a lefty - to round out their 'pen.
"It's no secret I would prefer to have more of a left-handed presence in our bullpen," Johnson said.
Henry Rodriguez, Christian Garcia, Cole Kimball and Jeremy Accardo are among the right-handers with a shot at that final available bullpen spot.
Mann pitched to a 16.20 ERA this spring, while Roark posted a 15.43 ERA in 2 1/3 innings.
The cuts leave the Nationals with 50 players in big league camp.