Read among first round of roster cuts (Nats lose 7-5)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Nationals made their first round of cuts of the spring this morning, demoting seven players to the minors, including catching prospect Raudy Read.

Read, the only player cut today who is on the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Fresno. The six others who were cut, all non-roster players, were reassigned to minor league camp: right-handers Jhonatan German, Derek Self and Paulo Espino, catcher Jakson Reetz, infielder Drew Ward and outfielder Mac Williamson.

Today’s moves leave 55 players in big league camp with 15 days to go before the club heads north.

Read is the most interesting name among those cut, not because he was in serious contention for a spot on the opening day roster but because he was demoted before fellow catching prospects Tres Barrera and Taylor Gushue.

Manager Davey Martinez insisted little should be read into that.

Read-Trots-Red-ST-sidebar.jpg“Raudy’s got all the tools,” Martinez said. “We just need to get him to be more consistent behind the plate and continue to get at-bats. If one of our two (veteran catchers) go down, he’s on the roster. He’s a guy who potentially could come up here and help us.”

Read, 26, appeared in six games last season, starting one (the first game of a late September doubleheader against the Phillies) and went 1-for-11 with five strikeouts. Considered more of an offensive catcher than a defensive one, he hit .275 with 20 homers in 82 games at Fresno last year. In 2018, he was suspended 80 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

In other pregame news ...

* Adam Eaton has not returned to the field for full baseball activities since departing with a tight hamstring five days ago. Martinez said the veteran outfielder did hit some in the cage Saturday, but he’s running on the treadmill at only 75-80 percent right now. Asked if there’s a point he’d start worrying about Eaton’s availability for opening day, Martinez replied: “I’ll start getting concerned if he’s not playing within the next five or six days. We could ramp him up pretty quickly.”

* Tuesday’s starter against the Marlins hasn’t been decided yet. Max Scherzer could take the mound, or he could decide to throw a couple of bullpen sessions over multiple days and bypass the start altogether, Martinez said. For what it’s worth, Scherzer threw off the bullpen mound this morning, which he would typically do two days before he starts a game. If the three-time Cy Young Award winner doesn’t start Tuesday, prospect Ben Braymer would get the nod.

Update: Erick Fedde had a solid afternoon, though he faded as it ended. After three fairly efficient scoreless innings, Fedde couldn’t get through the fourth. He walked back-to-back hitters and wound up departing with his pitch count at 61. Roenis Elías entered from the bullpen and stranded two inherited runners (albeit on a pair of ripped lineouts to right) but then struggled in the fifth. Elias gave up two runs on four hits before he was pulled. The Nationals lineup was shut out over four innings by old pal Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed only one hit. To be fair, Eric Thames crushed a ball to right field that looked like it would travel 450 feet only to watch it get knocked down by a stiff wind and be caught at the warning track. Still, that’s all the Nats have done so far at the plate today. They trail 2-0 after five.

Update II: Speaking of rough relief appearances ... Ryne Harper served up a two-run homer to Jordy Mercer in the top of the sixth. That left the Nats in a 4-0 hole. But they bounced back with a pair of their own blasts in the bottom of the inning. Jake Noll (celebrating his 26th birthday) and Yadiel Hernandez (not celebrating his 26th birthday) both hit towering homers to left, Hernandez’s a two-run shot. So the deficit has been cut to 4-3 after six.

Update III: The Nats kept up the pressure at the plate and wound up taking a late lead because of it. They scored twice in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Carter Kieboom’s RBI double off the left field wall. That gave the Nats a 5-4 lead.

Update IV: So much for that. The Nats blew their lead in the top of the ninth. Sam Freeman was the pitcher on the mound suffering the blown save. Kieboom also was charged with a throwing error (his third of the spring) to extend the inning. The Nats went down in the bottom of the ninth, so that sealed a 7-5 loss to the Tigers.

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