Worley among flurry of cuts that bring Nats roster to 27

JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals moved significantly closer to finalizing their opening day roster this morning, cutting six players to bring the total number of players left in big league camp to 27 on the penultimate day of spring training.

Most significant among the moves was the unconditional release of right-hander Vance Worley, who was competing for a spot in the bullpen as a long reliever. The Nationals also optioned right-handers A.J. Cole and Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse and reassigned catcher Jhonatan Solano, right-hander Jacob Turner and left-hander Neal Cotts to minor league camp.

Those moves reduce the current roster to 27, with two more cuts needed before Monday's season opener against the Marlins.

The focus now shifts to the one remaining player in major league camp who is on a minor league contract: Jeremy Guthrie. The soon-to-be 38-year-old right-hander has been competing with Worley and others for the long reliever position and has emerged as the final candidate for that job ... if the Nationals elect to keep one at all.

Guthrie-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgKeeping Guthrie would require either keeping a four-man bench (and thus optioning both outfielder Michael A. Taylor and infielder Wilmer Difo to Syracuse), dropping another reliever who is seemingly assured of a spot (Koda Glover or Sammy Solís, who both have minor league options; Enny Romero, who is out of options; or Oliver Pérez, who has a guaranteed $4 million contract) or placing someone on the disabled list.

Those are the decisions manager Dusty Baker, general manager Mike Rizzo and their staffs still must make - not to mention naming a closer, which did not happen this morning - in the next few days.

Worley's release was a procedural move. In practical terms, the right-hander opted out of his minor league contract once he was informed he wasn't making the opening day roster.

The 29-year-old appeared in eight games this spring, one of them a start, and posted a 4.80 ERA while putting 24 men on base in 15 innings. The Nationals signed him to his deal over the winter hoping he'd fill the same long reliever/emergency starter role he held with the Orioles last season.

"He still had a pretty good spring," Baker said. "But we've been watching Worley for a while. We've seen him in (Pittsburgh), we've seen him in Philly, we saw him last year in Baltimore. ... He had an out, so we had to release him. Hopefully he signs back with us."

Today's other moves were more expected. Turner was trying to make a case himself to be the long man in the bullpen but had a 5.50 ERA this spring and labored during the first inning Tuesday night against the Marlins. Cotts faced long odds given the Nationals' depth of left-handed relievers, but the 37-year-old did pitch well this spring, with a 3.00 ERA in nine appearances.

Cole and Gott both have been dealing with minor arm injuries in the last two weeks but are expected to be fine to open the season for Syracuse. Solano hung around as a third catcher behind Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton but now is headed to Syracuse along with top catching prospect Pedro Severino.

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