VIERA, Fla. — Pitcher Cole Kimball, first baseman Chris Marrero, catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Corey Brown were all sent to minor league camp today in the Nationals’ latest round of cuts.
Kimball, Marrero and Brown were all assigned to Triple-A Syracuse while Norris will head to Double-A Harrisburg.
Kimball, in his first big league camp, was very impressive — allowing just one run in eight innings of work off five hits and three walks. Basically, he was the victim of an innings crunch as the spring begins to wind down. Being sent to minor league camp, for him, isn’t because of poor performance.
“He’s pitched his way on to the club,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “We just can’t let it happen right now.”
“The number of innings that (pitching coach Steve McCatty) has to start getting for (Todd) Coffey, (Sean) Burnett, and (Drew) Storen and (Tyler) Clippard, and all the guys, as the starters get stretched out further, there’s just not enough innings to get guys enough work,” Riggleman said. “Cole would end up, right now, not pitching enough.”
Riggleman added that while Kimball has performed well enough to stick around, there are still things the 2006 draft pick needs to work on in the minor leagues, but certainly expects to see him in Washington at some point this season.
For Marrero, the move was not a surprising one given the fact that he’s blocked at first base by Adam LaRoche, but he said he felt he made an impression during his time in major league camp.
“He’s really looking like a player,” he said. “He’s going to have a nice career as a first baseman in the big leagues. He’s on a good pace this year, get to Triple-A and get after it.”
Marrero has generally never been a question mark offensively. The organization knows what he can do, especially after an All-Star year at Double-A Harrisburg in 2010. He proved it again this spring, hitting .381 with three RBI in 21 at-bats.
But he also displayed an improved ability at first base this spring, an encouraging sign and one that solidifes his place as a top prospect in the organization.
“With what he did last year in Double-A, he’s really shown progress with the bat tremendously,” Riggleman said. “What he’s shown here in spring training with the glove has been fine. He’s just a good looking right-handed hitter.”
Norris, a catching prospect, hit .200 (3-for-15) but displayed good plate discipline with a home run, two RBI and four walks.
Brown, who came to the Nationals this offseason from the A’s as part of the trade for Josh Willingham, appeared in just two games this spring before he sprained his left ankle sliding into home plate.
Personally I didn’t get a chance to see Brown play as he was injured so early into spring training, but Riggleman said he’s encouraged by the reports he’s gotten on him from the minor leagues. He was most likely targeted for Triple-A to start this season anyway.