JUPITER, Fla. – Things are starting to heat up at Nationals spring training as today is the first of 20 straight days with games before the end of camp.
With no more off-days before the team departs for D.C. and a handful of players away from camp over the next few weeks to participate in the World Baseball Classic, the Nationals need to start ramping up their regulars. That means less playing time for younger players who were longshots to make the team anyways.
The Nationals announced their first round of cuts this morning, removing 14 players from major league spring training.
Right-hander Joan Adon was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, and nine players were reassigned to minor league camp: right-handers Zach Brzykcy, Gerardo Carrillo, Anthony Castro, Tommy Romero and Jackson Tetreault; left-handers Alberto Baldonado, Evan Lee, Francisco Perez; catcher Brady Lindsly; infielders Lucius Fox and Erick Mejia; and outfielders Yasel Antuna, Donovan Casey and Derek Hill.
Brzykcy (forearm), Hill (hamstring) and Tetreault (scapula) are rehabbing injuries.
“For me with the pitching stuff, some of these guys, we want to get them stretched out,” Martinez said of the first cuts. “We don't have enough innings, especially now that our starters need to go deeper in these games. So we want to kind of get them ready in case something happens. We sent Adon down, who I thought has really done a great job this year and he's matured a lot. But it's to get him stretched out so in case something does break down that he's ready. And some of these other guys, too, we want to throw multiple innings. We sent them out as well. So it's just to get them ready, get them going.”
Adon broke camp with the team last season and went 1-12 with a 7.10 ERA and 1.778 WHIP in 14 major league starts, one being a spot start in July after being optioned to Rochester in June. He went 2-2 with a 4.68 ERA and 1.535 WHIP in 10 starts with the Red Wings.
With three left-handed relievers sent down to minor league camp, the Nats will now get an extended look at Matt Cronin, Anthony Banda and Jose Ferrer. Sean Doolittle, who has been slowed down while still recovering from surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament, is not expected to be ready by Opening Day.
“It hasn't been that big of a priority around here,” Martinez said of having a lefty in the bullpen with a laugh. “But it's nice. It really is nice. Look, last year when we had Doolittle, even though his role changed, he was huge. So I hope that somebody steps up this year. When Doolittle is little ready, he could be that guy again. But yeah, I would really like to have a lefty. In a perfect world, two lefties would be great, because then you can do things early and late. But we'll see.”
Sending Lindsly down could mean Israel Pineda is feeling better after getting hit by a pitch on Saturday and displacing the top of his right pinky finger. The Nationals are also trying to get Lindsly more at-bats. If Pineda were to miss significant time, Lindsly and Drew Millas were the only backups to Kiebert Ruiz and Riley Adams in major league camp. Minor leaguers Geraldi Diaz and Onix Vega are behind Adams and Millas today against the Marlins.
After these first cuts and the departures for the WBC, the Nationals currently have 49 players in major league camp, 13 as non-roster invitees.
* Some top prospects made the 15-minute trip to Jupiter with the major league club. Top prospect James Wood, Jeremy De La Rosa (No. 8 per MLB Pipeline), T.J. White (No. 10) and Trey Lipscomb (No. 19) have been included on today's travel roster.
Although they are not guaranteed to play in the game, Martinez still thinks the experience will be beneficial for the young players.
"If we can get them in the game, that would be great," the skipper said. "I like giving those young guys a chance to play up here. And we did it with (Juan) Soto. So it's nice to see them, talk to them. My biggest thing is just kind of have conversations with them a little bit. Even when they're sitting there, just kind of pick their brains a little bit so I get to know them. They can play. They played yesterday. ... They're really good."
More prospects could be joining the big league club tomorrow on the three-hour trip to face the Tigers in Lakeland with a lot of regulars scheduled to play most of Thursday's exhibition game against Team Israel in West Palm Beach.
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