The Washington Times - March 24, 2011, 01:52PM

VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals cut their roster by two more on Thursday, optioning Jesus Flores and Craig Stammen to Triple-A Syracuse.

Flores, who is coming off major shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2010 season, was behind both Ivan Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos at the catching position.

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“I knew it was going to be a good challenge for me to make the team,” he said. “One (of the catchers) is a legend and the other is a good young kid with great talent. At the same time, I trust myself. I know what I have done in the past and I know what I can do in the present and in the future. I’m going to keep trusting myself, going down to the minors, doing what I have to do and making the team again.”

Flores, who hit .125 in 15 spring games (3-for-24) with a double, a homer, three RBIs and five walks but needs to work on continuing to strengthen his throwing arm, wasn’t disheartened by the news.

“It’s not sad,” He said. “It doesn’t feel good listening to what you don’t want to hear, but at the same time, they told me to keep bothering myself to get better and keep working harder and harder and show the player I can be.

“For me, it was a great spring training, especially with my arm. I know I wasn’t hitting well but I wasn’t playing every day and it’s hard to be on with timing with the bat, but I think defensively I did very good.”

“I want to gain the level I was at to be the everyday catcher again,” he added. “I want to play every day and not be the guy behind another. I want to be that guy from 2009 again.”

Stammen, the Nationals No. 3 starter at the start of the 2010 season, was the victim of an extremely crowded field of bullpen candidates and was made expendable with the emergence of Chad Gaudin and Rule V pick Brian Broderick as potential long relief candidates for the team.

In 8.2 innings of relief work this spring, Stammen pitched to a 4.15 ERA, allowing four earned runs off 11 hits and three walks.

The Nationals now have 36 players in major league camp.