The Nationals cleared two spots on their 40-man roster Wednesday afternoon when right-hander Cole Kimball was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays and outfielder Corey Brown was outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse.
Kimball, who is rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery and isn’t expected to be back until at least mid-season, was claimed by the Blue Jays — thus ending a disappointing 2011 season with the Nationals for him. Kimball came into big league spring training as a non-roster invitee and drew raves for his fearless demeanor on the mound as well as a fastball that was routinely clocked at 95 mph and above.
But Kimball began the year at Triple-A Syracuse and shoulder stiffness there that went unreported led to a lack of control and slight drop in velocity when he did make it to the major leagues in mid-May. By the first week of June, Kimball was on the disabled list with inflammation in his shoulder and by July 8 it was clear that he wouldn’t get better with rest and rehab alone. It was announced then that Kimball would undergo season-ending rotator cuff surgery.
After the surgery, Kimball was in good spirits but knew the road ahead of him would be a long, trying one. The procedure required one anchor and two sutures in his shoulder.
“It’s going to be a long time without a ball,” he said after the surgery. “I was told I won’t be 100 percent until the All-Star break. It’s a very long process.”
The Nationals were trying to outright Kimball to Triple-A Syracuse as all players must be off the disabled list and either on the 40-man roster or in the minor leagues by Friday, but the Blue Jays apparently thought it was worth the risk to nab Kimball — who projects as a future late-inning reliever or closer if he returns healthy — and help him complete his rehab.
Brown, the outfielder who came to the Nationals as part of the Josh Willingham trade last offseason with Henry Rodriguez, was a September call-up this season. He spent the entire year on the team’s 40-man but an underwhelming performance for much of the season at Triple-A, combined with a staph infection in his right knee that required surgery almost immediately after he arrived in the big leagues, limited his ability to make an impression.
The Nationals 40-man roster is now set at 32 (with the assumption that Adam LaRoche will be moved from the 60-day disabled list to the active roster by Friday) and they have created some room to play with to protect minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft and add anyone signed in free agency or traded for.
As I wrote this morning, there are 14 Nationals minor leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 draft — some they will most likely not risk losing to another team.