The Washington Nationals cut ties with reliever Doug Slaten Monday night, choosing to non-tender the left-hander. Slaten was the only one of seven arbitration eligible players Washington did not offer a contract to for the 2012 season, tendering contracts to pitchers Tyler Clippard, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and Tom Gorzelanny, outfielder Michael Morse and catcher Jesus Flores.
The news came after a lost 2011 season that started with Slaten spending most of the first two months struggling with effectiveness in a left-handed specialist role, appearing in 23 games where opponents hit .346 off him and he allowed an eye-popping 50 percent of inherited runners to score.
After a June 3 outing in Arizona in which Slaten faced one batter, inherited three runners and allowed them all to score, he went on the disabled list with left elbow ulnar neuritis. He worked his way through a throwing program and a minor league rehab assignment until rosters expanded on Sept. 1 but was used sparingly then, appearing in eight games and pitching a total of four innings.
Slaten, who made $695,000 for the 2011, was largely without a role in the projected 2012 Nationals bullpen and was most likely in line for a modest raise for next season. The Nationals chose not to pay more than $700,000 for Slaten’s services in a crowded bullpen.
By tendering a contract to Gorzelanny, the Nationals reiterated the feeling that he’s their primary candidate for long relief next season. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said as much last week in Dallas at baseball’s winter meetings, noting that Gorzelanny performed well in the role after being moved to the bullpen in July.
“Gorzelanny really pitched great [out of the bullpen],” Johnson said. “I thought he had a little more tender arm but he showed me that he can come back and throw the next day, and wanted to.”
Gorzelanny made $2.1 million in 2011 and will be in line for a raise through the arbitration process in 2012.
The Nationals 40-man roster now has 36 players on it.