Nationals release veteran reliever Abad

The Nationals released Fernando Abad this morning, cutting ties with the veteran reliever, who had been among the group of players waiting the last two weeks to be cleared to participate in summer training.

Abad, a non-roster invitee to big league camp back in the spring, had been a viable candidate to make the opening day bullpen, all the more so after Major League Baseball announced this abbreviated season will begin with 30-man active rosters.

Abad-Delivers-Giants-sidebar.jpgBut the left-hander, a native of the Dominican Republic, had been among the group of players who either tested positive for the coronavirus or was exposed to someone who tested positive during the trip to Washington. He had been required to spend the last two weeks in quarantine, per the District of Columbia’s strict rules, even though club officials said none of their impacted players had shown symptoms of COVID-19.

As the two-week period since players arrived in Washington has begun to pass, their playing statuses have begun to change.

Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick, plus minor leaguers Luis Garcia, Joan Adon and Steven Fuentes all were cleared to join camp for the first time Thursday. Hitting coach Kevin Long, the only member of the staff who had been required to quarantine, was cleared to join workouts Wednesday. Second baseman Starlin Castro was cleared to return July 9. Outfielder Victor Robles and right-hander Wil Crowe were still waiting to be cleared as of Thursday night.

Relievers Wander Suero and Roenis Elías, meanwhile, were placed on the 10-day injured list Monday for undisclosed reasons.

Abad’s release brings some clarity to the competition for the final spots in what is expected to be an expanded, 10-man Nationals bullpen to open the season. Veterans Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson and Will Harris are locks, as is emerging setup man Tanner Rainey. Veteran Javy Guerra, a regular member of last year’s relief corps, figures to make it. And whichever right-hander doesn’t win the No. 5 starter’s job (Austin Voth or Erick Fedde) also will be part of the bullpen.

That still leaves four more spots to fill from a shrinking pool of candidates: right-handers Aaron Barrett, James Bourque, Kyle Finnegan, Ryne Harper and Kevin Quackenbush, plus left-hander Sam Freeman.

The Nationals made another transaction this morning, adding minor league infielder Yasel Antuna to their 60-man player pool. The 20-year-old played in 87 games for Single-A Hagerstown in 2018 but appeared in only three games in the rookie Gulf Coast League last season due to injuries.

The Nats currently have 58 players in their pool. Players on the injured list do not count against the total.

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