LAKELAND, Fla. - Greetings from Joker Marchant Stadium, where the Nationals are supposed to play the Tigers today at 1:05 p.m. I say “supposed” because the weather radar is showing a large multi-colored blob of precipitation closing in on us, and the tarp is covering the field. The forecast calls for morning thunderstorms followed by scattered afternoon thunderstorms with damaging winds, conditions not necessarily conducive to exhibition play.
But we’ll forge on. It’s nothing like the snow folks back home are dealing with (and I’ll get my comeuppance come Wednesday afternoon, when I return home and have to shovel out my parking pad).
While we were en route from Viera to Lakeland, the Nationals announced six roster cuts, not an unexpected development heading into tomorrow’s off-day.
Outfielders Eury Perez and Steven Souza Jr. were optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, and left-hander Sammy Solis was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. Additionally, the following players were reassigned to minor league camp: infielder Mike Fontenot, catcher Koyie Hill and outfielder Brian Goodwin.
The moves leave the Nationals with 44 players in major league camp.
Of this group, the player who made the biggest impression was Souza, who hit .355 with three homers and five RBIs in 17 games. When a 24-year-old managed to get 31 at-bats before St. Patrick’s Day and post a .429 on-base percentage and .808 slugging percentage, he opens some eyes.
It was clear by the way manager Matt Williams kept giving Souza playing time that he was intrigued by the third-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, who reached Double-A for the first time in 2013. But that’s what spring training is about: giving a look at the players in your system and seeing who might be helpful and when.
Keep an eye on Solis, too, as he could be in the majors later this season. Two scouts have told me they see him playing a role in the Nationals bullpen, perhaps later this season. The 25-year-old topped out at high Single-A Potomac last season, and two years removed from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, he’s also opened some eyes in the organization.
Nationals manager Matt Williams delayed his departure for Lakeland so he could watch right-hander Doug Fister through two innings in a minor league game this morning. Williams is expected to arrive by game time, assuming, of course, there is a game.
One last note: Because of the imminent threat of inclement weather, the Nats are taking batting practice on a back field at Tiger Town, as the tarp remains on the field.