VIERA, Fla. - Nathan Karns was having a relaxing dinner with fellow right-hander Aaron Barrett last night, mentally preparing for the first official day of spring training for Nationals pitchers and catchers today.
Then Karns got a call from his agent telling him that his name was being tossed out in trade rumors involving Rays catcher Jose Lobaton.
How about that for a bit of pre-camp news?
"My mom calls me and goes, 'Is it true?' " Karns said today. "I was like, 'I have no idea, I just found out about it.' And that's about it. It's been posted on the Internet and that's as far as my knowledge is on the whole topic."
The Nationals have been searching for a backup catcher to slot into their depth chart behind Wilson Ramos, and they've been interested in Lobaton for a couple of months now. Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Karns was being discussed as at least part of a potential trade for the Rays catcher, marking the first time that Karns has been involved in trade rumors as a professional.
"Besides being drafted, this is kind of the next step as far as anything I've ever experienced," Karns said. "I've never had anything to do with anything like a trade, but as far as I know, I'm still a Nat, I'm here to compete and I'm ready to get after it this year. ...
"I haven't heard anything, and right now I'm still focused on coming to compete for that fifth (starting) spot. That's my main focus right now until they tell me something different. That's just my approach so far for spring training."
Karns has been with the Nats since they drafted him in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He slowly worked his way up the minor league ranks following shoulder surgery in 2010, and made his big league debut last season, getting three starts before being sent back to Double-A Harrisburg for the remainder of the season. There, Karns posted a 10-6 record and 3.26 ERA on the year.
Baseball America listed him as the Nats' No. 9 prospect coming into this season.
"It's my first team, they signed me, they fixed me, had my debut with them," Karns said. "So there's a lot of history between us. So it'd be tough to go, but if I have to go, it'll be a new chapter and a new opportunity. Just got to look at it from both ends and just be fine with whatever happened."
As Karns mentioned, as long as he's still in Nats camp, he's competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, along with Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Ross Ohlendorf. That's his focus right now as he tries to take his experience last year and add on to it.
"Just try to keep moving forward," Karns said. "Just build off experience and get ready for the next opportunity and try to take advantage of it. That's all you can do. Just wait for those opportunities and make the most of them."