Lost in the furor over Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen’s cuts from big league camp were a trio of other moves that go further toward shaping the Nationals’ pitching staff for the season. The Nationals optioned Matt Chico to Class AAA Syracuse and sent reliever Doug Slaten to minor-league camp, also sending catcher Jamie Burke minor-league camp. The moves, combined with Strasburg and Storen’s releases, leave Washington with 39 players left in camp.
More importantly, though, the moves eliminate two more players thought to have a decent chance of making the team. Slaten, especially, was under consideration as a left-handed specialist. His re-assignment means either Jesse English will be the Nationals’ lefty specialist, or they’ll use right-hander Tyler Clippard to handle lefties.
As for Chico, he was impressive early this spring in his return from Tommy John surgery, despite an ugly outing against the Astros on March 13 in which he gave up five earned runs in an innings. His velocity was back up in the high 80s, an encouraging sign that the left-hander is close to regaining full strength. But even Chico knew he was a long shot to make the team.
“To be honest with you, all of us want to make that 25-man roster. I feel like I had probably the longest shot of anyone, just because of the history,” Chico said. “The only thing I wanted to do is come in and show I’m healthy, that I can throw some pitches a little better than I could before. I feel like I did that.”