The Washington Times - November 20, 2012, 09:54AM

The Washington Nationals protected just two of a possible 12 Rule 5-eligible players Tuesday night, adding right-handers Erik Davis and Nathan Karns to the team’s 40-man roster. The Nationals now have 38 players on their 40-man.

Davis, who came over in exchange for infielder Alberto Gonzalez on the eve of the 2011 season, transitioned to a reliever this season and had great success.

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A Stanford product, Davis had a 2.71 ERA in 48 games spread across Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in 2012. His performance in the Dominican Winter League shouldn’t go overlooked, either, as the 26-year-old has a 0.56 ERA and has held opponents to a .155 average in 14 appearances — an effort that might’ve made him too attractive to leave unprotected for another team.

Davis’ story is one of relentless perseverance after he took a line drive off his face in a scary scene in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2006. He returned to the mound and has continued to work toward reaching the major leagues. He just got one step closer.

Karns, the Nationals’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, is considered one of the better starting pitching prospects in the organizational pipeline. He was 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) across Single-A Hagerstown and Single-A Potomac. He led all Nationals’ minor league pitchers in ERA and strikeouts (148). 

In the conversation of the elite pitching prospects in the organization, Karns has been mentioned with the likes of right-hander Alex Meyer and left-handers Sammy Solis and Matt Purke by Nationals’ officials as one of the most coveted pitchers in the system.

Perhaps of equal interest are some of the players who were left unprotected and, thus, will be available in next month’s Rule 5 draft.

In the Rule 5 draft, which will be held on Dec. 6 in Nashville, teams can select any players not on another team’s 40-man roster for a $50,000 fee. They must then keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entire season or return him to his original team. 

Right-handers Paul Demny, Rob Wort, Jeff Mandel and Brad Meyers were not protected, nor was left-hander Danny Rosenbaum. Infielders Jeff Kobernus, Justin Bloxom and Josh Johnson were also left off the 40-man roster, as were outfielders Destin Hood and Erik Komatsu. Meyers and Komatsu were selected in last year’s Rule 5 draft but both have since been returned to the Nationals.

Meyers dealt with a shoulder injury and Komatsu didn’t stick with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Nationals’ 40-man roster is already crowded and the addition of the two minor leaguers leaves them with just two spots before they’ve signed a single free agent this offseason.

The Nationals are still working on bringing back first baseman Adam LaRoche and have interest in left-handers Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez. They’re also in the market for a No. 5 starter so it’s safe to say there will be more 40-man maneuvering for the team in the coming weeks and months.