Late-night cuts leave Nats with only one more roster decision

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals made four more cuts following tonight’s split-squad, day-night doubleheader, and in the process left themselves with only one more decision to make before their Opening Day roster is set.

The club optioned outfielders Alex Call and Jacob Young and catcher Drew Millas to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned reliever Jacob Barnes to minor league camp, leaving only 27 healthy players remaining heading into the final day of spring training.

The demotions of Call and Young leave the Nationals with four remaining outfielders, all of whom are expected to make the team: Lane Thomas, Victor Robles, Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker. The latter two, who are on minor league contracts, will need to be added to the 40-man roster.

The demotion of Millas leaves the Nats’ catching tandem from the majority of the last two seasons (Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams) intact.

The reassignment of Barnes, who pitched a scoreless inning tonight and finished the spring with an 0.87 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings, appears to solidify the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen. Barring a late addition from outside the organization, the eight-man relief corps will include Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Dylan Floro, Tanner Rainey, Jordan Weems, Derek Law, Matt Barnes and Robert Garcia (the lone left-hander in the group). Law and Barnes, who signed minor league deals after camp began, will also need to be added to the 40-man roster.

With five players expected to open the season on the 60-day injured list (Stephen Strasburg, Cade Cavalli, Stone Garrett, Mason Thompson, Jose A. Ferrer), the club will be able to clear the 40-man roster spots needed for everyone on minor league deals to make the team.

All of this leaves the Nationals confronting one final decision to reduce the active roster to 26 in time for Thursday’s season opener in Cincinnati: Whether to include prospect Trey Lipscomb at the expense of another infielder.

Lipscomb, the club’s 2022 third-round pick who grew up in Frederick before playing in college at Tennessee, has produced throughout the spring. With a 3-for-4 performance this afternoon against the Cardinals, he raised his Grapefruit League batting average to a robust .396 and his OPS to .955. While the organization’s other top prospects (Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House, Robert Hassell III) all were reassigned to minor league camp Friday, Lipscomb remained as team officials gave him serious consideration to crack the roster.

If Lipscomb does make it, it would likely come at the expense of Rule 5 draftee Nasim Nuñez (who would have to be offered back to the Marlins) or incumbent starting second baseman Luis García Jr. The Nats theoretically could also keep Lipscomb over third baseman Nick Senzel or utility infielder Ildemaro Vargas, but they would end up eating either player’s guaranteed contract in the process.

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