- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Washington Nationals announced a series of roster moves Wednesday, releasing utility man Kevin Frandsen and re-assigning outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., reliever Rafael Martin and third baseman Ian Stewart to minor-league camp.

Frandsen’s release clears a valuable spot on the 40-man roster, which now sits at 37. The Nationals have 32 players remaining in big-league camp.

Frandsen’s future in Washington was cloudy after the team became comfortable with Danny Espinosa as a backup third baseman and acquired outfielders Matt den Dekker and Reed Johnson on Monday. One of the 32-year-old’s greatest assets is his ability to play both infield and outfield, five positions in all, and that versatility grew less valuable when other versatile pieces entered the equation.

A former member of the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies, Frandsen was a late spring addition to the Nationals in 2014, joining them in the final two weeks of spring training. He hit .259 with nine extra-base hits in 220 at-bats last season and re-signed with the team in November. He was 3 for 35 at the plate this spring.

Despite his struggles at the plate, Frandsen was a respected leader and important presence in the Nationals‘ clubhouse. He brought a sense of levity to the room, hooking up a smoke machine and disco ball to celebrate wins last year.

Gwynn signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals after spring training had begun. He hit an impressive .341 in 44 at-bats this spring but offers a similar skill set to den Dekker, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Mets on Monday afternoon.

Stewart hit .273 in spring training with three homers and four RBI in 44 at-bats. Like Frandsen, his chances were likely affected by Espinosa’s recent playing time at third base, a new development for the longtime middle infielder. Stewart played second base earlier in his career but only saw time at third during spring training.

Martin, the lone pitcher of the group, put up impressive numbers last month, allowing just six hits and one earned run in 6 2/3 innings of work. He posted a 1.35 ERA. As a right-hander, however, he was blocked in the bullpen by Aaron Barrett, Tanner Roark and Blake Treinen, among others.

With the cuts, the Nationals likely have only a handful of decisions remaining before Opening Day on Monday. If Casey Janssen, Nate McLouth, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span and Jayson Werth all begin the season on the disabled list, as expected, Washington would have 27 players competing for 25 spots.

The final decisions will come on the bench and in the bullpen. Mike Carp and Clint Robinson are likely vying for the same role as a reserve first baseman and corner outfielder with a left-handed swing. Meanwhile, Xavier Cedeno and Rich Hill are both seeking to fill the hole left by left-handed specialist Jerry Blevins, who was traded to the Mets in exchange for den Dekker.

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