Robert Garcia activated off IL, Matt Barnes designated for assignment

The Nationals have a lefty in their bullpen again. They had to cut ties with a veteran right-hander to make it possible.

Robert Garcia was activated off the 15-day injured list, the club announced. The corresponding move: Matt Barnes was designated for assignment, likely ending his brief tenure with the organization.

Garcia was eligible to return after spending the last two weeks on the IL with the same influenza bug that previously sidelined catcher Keibert Ruiz. The left-hander initially tried to pitch through it but labored through four consecutive rough appearances before the Nats finally placed him on the IL and gave him time to fully recover.

Once healthy again, Garcia went on a rehab assignment to Single-A Fredericksburg over the weekend and pitched two scoreless innings in relief, striking out four. He’ll be available to pitch tonight in the Nats’ series opener against the Orioles.

When Garcia was shut down two weeks ago, the Nationals called up Jacob Barnes from Triple-A Rochester. The right-hander has performed well since, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.857 WHIP in seven games, earning the right to stay in the big leagues.

That left the club needing to drop another reliever. And with only top late-inning arms Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey having minor league options, the Nats either had to DFA someone else or place another pitcher on the IL.

Though Tanner Rainey (9.00 ERA, 2.667 WHIP in 12 games) has by far been the least-effective member of the staff since Opening Day, the team ultimately chose to keep the 31-year-old and hope to get him back on track in his long-term return from Tommy John surgery.

That left Matt Barnes on the chopping block. The 33-year-old made the club out of spring training on a minor league deal and arrived with a track record of success as a high-leverage reliever for the Red Sox from 2014-22. But he couldn’t find a consistent groove here, finishing with a 6.75 ERA and 1.500 WHIP in 14 games.

As a veteran, Barnes has the right to refuse an outright assignment to Triple-A if he clears waivers, so he most likely will end up a free agent hoping to catch on with another organization.

The move not only clears a spot on the Nationals’ 26-man active roster but also a spot on their organizational 40-man roster. That open slot could ultimately be used to promote a prospect such as James Wood to the major leagues whenever the team decides the 21-year-old outfielder is ready.

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