The Washington Times - March 12, 2012, 05:18PM

VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals made their first round of cuts Monday morning, sending nine players out of major league camp and over to the minor league side.  Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke, two of the Nationals’ top 2011 draft picks, were among those cut.

Outfielder Corey Brown, who Nationals manager Davey Johnson singled out as “the guy that impressed me most,” was also sent to minor league camp, along with fellow outfielder Xavier Paul and catcher Sandy Leon. Infielders Jarrett Hoffpauir and Carlos Rivero, along with pitchers Rafael Martin and Austin Bibens-Dirkx were also cut.  

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“Anybody that was in this camp we think has a chance to play in the big leagues this year,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “Any of them. I like just about everybody I’ve seen and I think they could help us. 

“(This is the) best talent I’ve ever seen — definitely in Nationals camp — and depth-wise, about any I’ve ever been with.”

Rendon and Purke were both optioned to Single-A Potomac while Rivero was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. The rest of the cuts were non-roster invitees and were not on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. They will be assigned to a minor league team at the conclusion of minor league spring training. Rendon, Purke and Rivero remain on the team’s 40-man.

Both Rendon and Purke did well to impress the right people during their three-week stint with the major leaguers. Rendon was used in eight games, going 3-for-13 with three doubles. Purke pitched in two official spring games, throwing 3 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and one earned run with one walk and three strikeouts. Purke also pitched well in the Nationals’ exhibition game against Georgetown University on March 2. 

Both are expected to move quickly through the Nationals’ system.

“I told Anthony, ‘You almost lived up to your press clippings,’” Johnson said. “It was pretty impressive. I said, ‘Just go play.’ It won’t take him long to be back here.”

Purke looked at his time in major league camp as an extremely positive experience, saying his goal was simply to show the Nationals that he’s the same pitcher he has been before, despite an injury-hampered final season in college and a brief Arizona Fall League stint. 

“I’ll look for him to move pretty quick through the system,” Johnson said. “He’s that good.”

The Nationals opened the spring with a relatively low number of players (54) on the major league side to begin with, but after going through more than a week of games they brought that number down to 45 on Monday.