No decision yet on final bullpen spot (Abad, Maldonado cut)

VIERA, Fla. - Following this afternoon's 11-2 split-squad win over the Braves, the Nationals made two cuts, sending left-hander Fernando Abad and catcher Carlos Maldonado over to minor league camp.

Abad, who came into camp competing for a spot in the bullpen, impressed this spring. He went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in eight appearances spanning seven innings. Maldonado was 3-for-13 (.231) with a double in 15 games played.

The cuts leave the Nats with 28 players remaining in big league camp.

Manager Davey Johnson said that he will keep infielder Carlos Rivero and outfielder Micah Owings with the team through tomorrow, after which they will be sent over to the minor league side.

That just leaves the battle for the final bullpen spot, which is still up for grabs between Henry Rodriguez and newly signed left-hander J.C. Romero.

Rodriguez allowed a single and walked two batters in a scoreless seventh inning today, while Romero allowed a single and a walk in a scoreless eighth.

Johnson told Romero that he will join the team on the trip back to D.C. tomorrow, meaning he's still in the mix for a spot on the 25-man roster. Rodriguez will throw a side session tomorrow and the Nats plan to have him pitch in the exhibition against the Yankees on Friday at Nats Park.

"Hopefully, that'll bring him closer yet," Johnson said.

Reporters approached Romero shortly after his conversation with Johnson, but the veteran left-hander didn't have much information on his future other than that he'll be making the trip north with the Nats.

"I just work here," he said.

Romero making the trip north could be viewed as good news when it comes to his roster status, but it could also mean that the Nats just want to get one more look at him in a big league game before deciding whether to put him on their opening day roster. It seems like the former is more likely, though we clearly don't know for sure.

"I mean, every time you can be with the team, that's fine," Romero said. "But the season hasn't started yet. It's a long season. I just do what I can. Every moment for me is a blessing, having an opportunity to put on a uniform and come back again."

Rodriguez is out of options, so if the Nationals opt not to make him a part of their opening day roster, he would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors. If the Nats feel that Rodriguez needs more time to heal from last August's elbow surgery, however, they could place him on the disabled list to begin the season, a move that would keep him in the organization.

Romero signed a minor league deal with the Nats on Friday, and could be sent to a minor league affiliate without being exposed to other teams.

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