VIERA, Fla. — You may not know the name. You probably couldn’t pick him out of an organizational photo. But Carlos Rivero’s play this spring may wind up being of some importance to the Washington Nationals.
The Venezuelan infielder is in his second big league camp with the Nationals, claimed on waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies before the 2012 season, and after a strong year in Triple-A in 2012, he is in a somewhat unique position this spring: that of a player with no clear spot on the major league team, but who is out of options.
On the lineup card for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener, Rivero is listed as a possible backup right fielder. Asked Friday if the versatile infielder, who can play third base as well as shortstop, was indeed being looked at in the outfield, manager Davey Johnson said it was no mistake.
“Well he’s pretty versatile,” Johnson said. “He’s played some out there in winter ball.”
With Roger Bernadina set to leave the team for the World Baseball Classic and Team Netherlands, and Johnson bringing Jayson Werth along slowly this spring, the manager felt he could use another guy in the outfield. Enter Rivero.
“If I can put a second baseman in left in a big league game, I’m not worried about where I play them down here,” Johnson said.
But here’s the thing with Rivero, who mostly keeps to himself and spends time with other Spanish-speaking players in the clubhouse, he is out of options. So the Nationals most likely cannot seamlessly pass him through to the minor leagues and keep him as depth.
Could he actually make the team?
“(Only if) Tyler Moore got hurt,” Johnson said, opting not to dance around the question and offering his honest opinion.
“We like him. The probability of us losing him is probably pretty good, but I’m playing him, because anybody in that room I’m going to play where I know they’re capable of playing.”
Rivero, 24, is a career .265 hitter in seven minor league seasons, with an OPS of .709. But with Triple-A Syracuse in 2012 he hit .303, got on base at a .347 clip and slugged .435.
If Rivero plays well this spring, the chances the Nationals will be able to get him through waivers, off their 40-man roster, and into the minors without someone claiming him are most likely slim. But if he plays well enough, he could be used as part of a trade that helps the Nationals in some other way before the 2013 season begins.
“If he looks real good, that opens up more options for (general manager Mike Rizzo),” Johnson said. “And if he doesn’t look so good, maybe we can keep him.”
Rivero will get his first possible chance to play this spring once Moore is removed from Saturday’s game against the Mets as he was slated to take over right field once Moore, the starter there, was done for the day.