The Washington Times - March 22, 2013, 01:07PM

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals do not have much mystery surrounding who’ll be on their 25-man roster heading north to D.C. next week. They haven’t exactly had position battles ongoing throughout the spring and they’ve been fortunate to get through the first six weeks of camp with few casualties to injury.

But that doesn’t mean they are without decisions to make or moves to finagle before rosters must be set.


Right now the two biggest wild cards are right-hander Chris Young, and infielder Carlos Rivero. 

So let’s take a look at each player’s situation, case and what could happen to them in the next week or so.

Carlos Rivero: The Nationals claimed Rivero on waivers before the 2012 season when the Philadelphia Phillies tried to outright him and clear space on their 40-man roster. Rivero, who had an option remaining at the time, put together a strong season at Triple-A Syracuse with the Nationals. 

Rivero hit .303 with a .347 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 28 doubles in Triple-A and the Nationals have played him on the left side of the infield as well as in the outfield this spring.

But he entered the spring without an obvious spot on the Nationals’ 25-man roster and without any minor league options remaining on his contract.

Asked early in spring what’d it take for Rivero to make the team, manager Davey Johnson was honest: an injury to Tyler Moore. So far, Moore has been healthy and playing well. 

So the Nationals have a few options. They can attempt to trade Rivero in the next few days, or they can try to sneak him through waivers and hope no one else claims him. In that case, Rivero would remain in the Nationals’ system and go back to Triple-A. It sounds as though the Nationals would prefer to try the latter, and one scout said recently the team hadn’t been pushing too hard to attempt to drum up interest.

“We’ve got some tough decisions to make,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on Friday. “It looks like he’s not going to make the 25-man roster, and we’ll know what other teams think of him by the fact that he gets through or he doesn’t.

“He’s a good player, though. He’s a versatile player. He’s a guy that could help some teams. But at this time of year, I’m not sure if he fits for somebody else or not. We’ll see shortly.”

Chris Young: Young’s situation is a bit different than Rivero’s in that he has a say over what happens next for him. The veteran right-hander was brought into camp as starting pitching depth but he has an out clause in his minor league deal that he can exercise on March 24. 

The Nationals would love to keep Young in the organization so he can serve as a possible sixth starter if an injury arises in the team’s rotation. But they’ve also made it clear that if he has a major league opportunity elsewhere, they won’t stand in the way of him taking it.

“Players like that, I like to do what’s best for the player,” Rizzo said, referring to veteran players the team brings in on minor league deals. “If he has an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, we’re certainly not going to keep him in the minor leagues. I think that’s only right. That’s how we get players like this to come here, under these conditions. They know we’re going to do right by them and treat them well.”

According to two sources familiar with the deal, the Nationals would owe Young a $100,000 retention bonus if he does not opt out and the team chooses to keep him. For a team that paid $5 million for John Lannan to pitch in Triple-A in 2012, that doesn’t seem like a sum that would be a total deterrent to keeping what could be a valuable insurance policy for the starting rotation.

But if Young has a major league offer, and he’s admitted he will have to figure out if he does, the choice is his.

“We love Chris Young, we always have,” Rizzo said. “We think he’s coming along, and I think the guy you’re seeing, once he really gets command of his stuff and the longer he pitches in spring training, I think he’ll really find himself command-wise… We got him for depth and I think he’d be a good depth guy for us.”

Outside of Young, the Nationals will rely on Ross Ohlendorf, Yunesky Maya and Ryan Perry as their primary starting pitching insurance. Once Christian Garcia is allowed to resume baseball activities and gets stretched out into a starter, he could be an option as well.