VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals made another round of cuts on Monday morning, optioning six players to Triple-A Syracuse and re-assigning two more to minor league camp.
Catcher Chris Snyder, who had an opt-out on his minor league contract and was unlike to make the Nationals out of camp, was also granted his unconditional release and is expected to sign with the Los Angeles Angels.
Right-handers Yunesky Maya, Ryan Perry, Erik Davis, outfielder Corey Brown, infielder Chris Marrero and catcher Jhonatan Solano were optioned to Triple-A. Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and infielder Zach Walters were re-assigned to minor league camp, but the distinction is purely procedural. Ohlendorf and Walters, who unlike the other six are not on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, are expected to begin the season at Triple-A as well.
“I wanted them to look at it as an opportunity to get to where they need to be and to be ready from jump street,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who spent a good portion of the morning talking with the players sent down. “I always take maybe more time than most when I talk to young players because I want them to know what I’m seeing and what I’m expecting of them when they go down.
“I don’t pull any punches. I tell it exactly the way I see it and that conversation, to me is very important for them to understand exactly what I think and what I think they’re capable of doing.”
The process of cutting down the roster this season doesn’t come with much mystery for the Nationals this spring. They entered camp with their 25-man roster all but set and have been fortunate that they’ve dealt with few major injuries. Christian Garcia, who requires two more weeks of rest for his partially torn right wrist tendon, has been the most notable casualty thus far.
But the moves are important in their own right.
Johnson acknowledged that the Nationals are expecting almost every player sent out on Monday to be valuable insurance for them should they encounter injuries at the big league level, particularly when it comes to starting pitching.
“I told (Maya) that this is a very important year for me and the organization and… I look for him to be real good insurance,” Johnson said. “By and large I said the same thing to Ohlendorf, with his experience, if he gets going real good, if we had a problem up here, he’d be a candidate. And Perry, he needs to get more consistent with his command and attacking hitters.
“I hope I impressed upon them that they are prime candidates, each and every one of them, and that they need to go in with a good frame of mind. Last year was a very good year in that we had some injuries to the position players but kept the pitching staff pretty much injury free. That doesn’t always happen that way.”
Along those lines, Brown, Marrero, Solano and Walters are all viewed as the Nationals’ first line of defense should an injury require them to fill a hole on the roster.
“I know Davey likes me,” Walters said as he packed his things. “I never believed anyone before but he finally told me himself so I just feel like it’s kind of a family for me. I don’t have to worry about anything else but playing and playing up to my ability.”
While Brown, Marrero and Solano were already considered solid options by the organization, Walters played his way into favor with a lot of decision makers this spring — including Johnson, who raved about the shortstop and often compared him to a younger Ian Desmond.
“Corey Brown, Zach Walters, Marrero, all of them have the talent to be very productive big league players. That’s why they’re here,” Johnson said. “But they’re not completely polished. They’re not doing all of the things that I know they’re still capable of doing.
“These other guys are knocking on the door to get here and if they do the things I know they’re capable of doing and start living up and doing the things I know they’re able to do, they will be in the big leagues real quick. If I didn’t believe that I would tell them that.”
– Snyder became the ninth cut of the day, essentially, when the Nationals granted him his release to sign a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp with the Angels. The Angels had been looking for catching help and it appears that Snyder will have a good shot at a backup role on their major league team.
Snyder had an out clause in his minor league deal that he could exercise sometime next week, but knowing that he would not make the team (he was brought in primarily as insurance if Wilson Ramos’ rehab did not progress as expected) the Nationals granted him his release early so he could seize another opportunity.