VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals added a possible left-handed relief option on Friday morning, agreeing to a minor league deal with J.C. Romero that includes an invitation to major league camp.
Romero, who is expected to join the Nationals on Saturday, is not a realistic candidate to make the team’s Opening Day Roster. General manager Mike Rizzo said it has been conveyed to Romero that he will go to the minor leagues and “if he can help us down the road, we’ll go grab him.”
Nationals manager Davey Johnson called the move “insurance in that area,” and the team views the signing much the way they did their acquisition of Michael Gonzalez in May of 2012. Gonzalez went to the minor leagues but was called up in June and became a valuable contributor to the team’s bullpen for the remainder of the season.
“We know him,” Rizzo said of the left-hander who won a World Series with the Phillies in 2008 but hasn’t pitched consistently in the major leagues since 2010. He was with the Nationals in the minor leagues briefly in 2011.
He was also suspended 50 games for a performance-enhancing drug violation after the 2009 season, though he sued the maker of the supplement that triggered his positive test (saying he unknowingly took the banned substance) and reached a settlement with the company.
“He’s been here before and several guys have played with him in the past,” Rizzo said. “He fits the makeup aspect of it. It’s just a guy who will compete to see if he can get some time with us.”
The Nationals scouted Ramiro in the World Baseball Classic, where he pitched for Puerto Rico. In 4 2/3 innings of work, Ramiro allowed two runs on four hits and three walks. In 2012, Ramiro pitched for St. Louis and Baltimore, but only appeared in 12 innings in the major leagues. He allowed 12 earned runs on 21 hits and three walks.
As it pertains to the Opening Day roster, however, the Nationals remain comfortable with their current configuration with six right-handers and one left-hander in Zach Duke, who will fill a long relief role.
The Nationals have a few other left-handed relief options in Fernando Abad, who is still in camp, and Bill Bray, who was sent to minor league camp early in spring training to work on finding the proper arm slot after injury had forced him into a new, less effective one.
Bray has made good progress, and the Nationals like Abad, but it appears that neither will be season-opening options for the Nationals. Any of the three lefties could come into play later in the season, though.