VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals made a round of cuts from major league camp Thursday morning, optioning Anthony Rendon, Sandy Leon and Nate Karns to Double-A Harrisburg and Eury Perez to Triple-A Syracuse, while reassigning Matt Skole, Will Rhymes and Pat McCoy to minor league camp.
Rendon, Skole, Karns and Leon will all start the minor league season with Double-A Harrisburg, a team that looks like it will be prospect-laden this season. Outfield prospects Brian Goodwin and Destin Hood could also begin the year at that level, along with infielder Rick Hague.
All seven players cut made an impression on the Nationals during their time in major league camp, with Rendon’s torrid spring at the plate leading the way.
The Nationals’ top prospect, Rendon needs only to stay healthy and continue to get playing time. His time in the major leagues is not far away.
“It was a good experience just being around the guys and seeing how everything is day-in and day-out,” Rendon said. “It helps prepare you for when you get back up here.”
Rendon certainly showed what he can do when healthy at the plate this spring. The 23-year-old leaves camp with a .296 average in 26 at-bats. He got on-base at a .345 clip and slugged .741. He hit three home runs, three doubles and struck out only six times.
Manager Davey Johnson has said multiple times this spring that Rendon just needs to go play, so he will get to do so now. Rendon will play third base, shortstop and second base in the minor leagues.
“They had great springs,” Johnson said after announcing the moves. “They impressed a lot of people.”
Skole, who finished the spring hitting .250 with two doubles, six walks and six strikeouts, also greatly impressed the Nationals during his time in camp. He’ll continue to work at first and third base.
Karns admitted he was a little disappointed that some upper leg tightness limited what he was able to do physically during the latter part of his time in camp, but still felt the experience as a whole was positive.
“(Johnson) just told me just go back to work,” Karns said. “He said he believes in me and he told me that I have a bright future. I just have to go back to work and get back to where I’m supposed to be at… Any time you get to show more than a stat line, get to know me as a person or see me play, I think that’ll help out in any regard.”
Karns will throw a bullpen session on Friday and believes the leg issue is not serious.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “It flared up. Time was the only thing it needed and we’re pretty much out of the woods. I’m just ready to get back out on the field.
“I got a lot out of (being in big league camp). I may not have gotten to participate physically but a lot of guys talked to me about the mental aspect and things to look forward to and the back-and-forth between minor league camp and big league camp. It’s not over. The season hasn’t even started yet so not to sweat it. I’m just going to go back work and try to get my butt back in this big league locker room.”
Perez, who made his major league debut with the Nationals last September, has been away from camp for the past few weeks with the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. He hasn’t been getting very many at-bats with them, though, so the Nationals optioned him with the hope that when he does return he will go right to minor league camp to get more playing time.
Leon proved his ability in 2012 when he filled in at the major league level after a rash of injuries depleted the Nationals’ catching corps. The Nationals still think very highly of him, though, and they hope he’ll continue to develop this season.
McCoy, a left-handed pitcher, appeared in four games, allowing five runs on eight hits. He had a 3.70 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg in 2012 appearing in 50 games, 40 as a reliever.
Rhymes, a veteran infielder, does not have an opt-out clause in the minor league deal he signed this offseason. He will most likely start the year in Triple-A.