Baker offers high praise for Severino after demotion to Triple-A

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The Nationals sent Pedro Severino to the minors this afternoon, but their new manager offered lofty praise for the catching prospect on his way out of the big league clubhouse.

"I love this guy," Dusty Baker said. "I think he's going to be an All-Star someday."

Severino, 22, impressed Baker and his coaching staff during his month in major league camp. Returning club officials already had a high opinion of the catcher from his breakthrough 2015 that concluded with a September promotion to D.C.

Severino-Hitting-White-Sidebar.jpgThe beneficiary of considerable playing time this spring while starter Wilson Ramos recovered from LASIK surgery, Severino appeared in 10 Grapefruit League games and made the most of the opportunity. He hit .438 (7-for-16) with two doubles, two walks and only one strikeout while also confirming his reputation as a quality defensive catcher.

"He's learning how to hit," Baker said. "He has a great attitude. He blocks well. He runs well for a catcher. He throws well."

Severino officially was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, the first time he'll play at the minors' highest level. In 91 games at Double-A Harrisburg last season, he hit .246 with five homers and 34 RBIs in 91 games while throwing out 38 percent of opposing basestealers.

He appeared in only two games with the Nationals, going 1-for-4 with a double.

The larger question: When is Severino likely to make a permanent impact for the Nationals at the big league level?They're already set behind the plate this season with Ramos and backup Jose Lobaton, but Ramos is eligible for free agency next winter and some club officials believe Severino could be ready to take over in 2017.

Baker, despite the high praise for Severino, wouldn't go quite that far yet.

"You never really know if you're big league ready until you get to the big leagues," he said. "How many times have you said, 'Man, he's ready!' or 'That guy, he'll be ready in a year!' and he's ready now? Sometimes you don't have the luxury to put him out there. Everybody gives a timetable on when they think a guy's ready: 1,000 at-bats, or 500 more. We don't know how smart a person is, or how determined a person is in his heart and to be able to read and make adjustments. Catcher and shortstop, those are the two toughest. Because you have as much defensive responsibility, probably more, than offensive responsibility."

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