Abbott, Rutledge among cuts; Arano has shoulder injury

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Nationals made another round of cuts this morning, sending six players down to leave 37 healthy players in big league camp with 12 days to go before the team heads north.

Four pitchers were optioned to Triple-A Rochester (right-handers Cory Abbott, Jake Irvin and Jordan Weems, left-hander Matt Cronin), one pitcher was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg (right-hander Jackson Rutledge) and one player (catcher Drew Millas) was reassigned to minor league camp.

Abbott and Irvin will open the season in Rochester’s rotation, according to manager Davey Martinez, and there’s ample reason to believe both will get a chance to start for the Nationals at some point this season. Abbott, 27, started nine games and made seven relief appearances in the majors last year, going 0-5 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.438 WHIP. Irvin, 26, will be pitching at Triple-A for the first time after producing a 3.83 ERA and 1.142 WHIP in 24 combined starts at Single-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg in 2022.

Rutledge, 23, will be making his Double-A debut after going 8-6 with a 4.90 ERA and 1.387 WHIP in 20 starts for low Single-A Fredericksburg last season. Though he’s skipping high Single-A, the Nationals believe the 2019 first round pick is ready.

“He’s matured a lot,” Martinez said. “His control of the fastball is a lot better. Secondary pitches are a lot better. I think the bump to Double-A will be good for him. He needs to start getting challenged a little bit, but I saw a really big improvement this spring with his command, his ability to throw strikes. Why not? Let’s push these guys a little bit.”

Weems, 30, made 32 relief appearances for the Nats last season, finishing with a 5.22 ERA and 1.185 WHIP. The right-hander is entering his final option year, so he can be sent up and down to Triple-A up to five times before being exposed to waivers.

Cronin, 25, is still trying to make his major league debut after delivering a 2.42 ERA and 1.096 WHIP in 48 combined appearances between Harrisburg and Rochester. The Nationals continue to seek a left-hander for their bullpen. With Cronin out of the mix and Sean Doolittle expected to open the season on the injured list as he returns from elbow surgery, they still have one young lefty (Jose Ferrer) and one veteran (Anthony Banda) competing in big league camp.

Millas’ demotion leaves three catchers in major league camp: Starter Keibert Ruiz, backup Riley Adams and prospect Israel Pineda (who hasn’t played in 10 days after getting hit by a pitch on his finger).

* Reliever Victor Arano is dealing with a shoulder impingement and doesn’t appear to be in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot. The 28-year-old made 43 appearances last season, with a 4.50 ERA and 1.405 WHIP, but he made only two appearances this spring before reporting shoulder soreness.

“We shut him down for the time being,” Martinez said. “He’s just going to build up strength and we’ll reevaluate him in about 10 days. A little concerning, so that’s why we shut him down.”

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