LOS ANGELES - Needing a fresh arm in their bullpen after a taxing series at Citi Field, the Nationals promoted veteran right-hander Carlos Torres from Triple-A Syracuse and made the decision to cut ties with A.J. Cole.
Cole, who was out of options, was designated for assignment and now is available to any other club to claim off waivers over the next week. If he clears waivers, the Nationals could then either outright Cole to the minors or release him.
General manager Mike Rizzo had been reluctant to give up on Cole for some time, believing the 26-year-old had the ability to blossom at long last and become a viable No. 5 starter for the club. Cole, though, endured through a rocky spring training, and though he made the opening day rotation he was always going to be a short-term solution until the recently signed Jeremy Hellickson was ready to join the big league roster.
Hellickson made his debut Monday night in New York, allowing two runs in 4 2/3 innings. Cole was sent to the bullpen, where the Nationals hoped he’d be a valuable long man. But in two disastrous relief appearances, he served up two homers (including a grand slam to Yoenis Céspedes) and a triple and retired only four of eight batters faced.
A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft who was traded to the Athletics in the 2011 Gio Gonzalez deal but sent back to the Nationals a year later in the Michael Morse trade, Cole wound up making 26 appearances (19 starts) in the majors, going 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.509 WHIP.
Torres, 35, has 348 games of big league experience with the White Sox, Rockies, Mets and Brewers, owning a 4.00 ERA and 1.348 WHIP. After posting a 2.73 ERA in 72 games for Milwaukee in 2016, he struggled to a 4.21 ERA last season.
Signed by the Nationals to a minor league deal on March 30, Torres tossed five hitless innings for Syracuse, retiring 16 of 17 batters faced.