- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2020

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez revealed Friday that catcher Welington Castillo declined the invitation to join the team’s 60-man player pool and opted out of the season.

Castillo is the third Nationals player to opt out, following first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Joe Ross.

“I talked to [Castillo] and he decided that he wasn’t going to come,” Martinez said.”He’s got two little kids and his wife in the Dominican [Republic[. I don’t hold anything against those guys. They have family.”

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said that the team invited their first-round pick in the 2020 draft, pitcher Cade Cavalli, to join their player pool. The righty from Oklahoma was not part of the initial player pool, but the Nationals now can fill up to three spots.

“Took his [coronavirus] test today. So hopefully he’ll be on the field very, very soon,” Rizzo said of Cavalli. “And then we’ll have a couple of open spots to leave our options open a little bit for further on down the road.”

Rizzo said he had a “long conversation” with Zimmerman before the 35-year-old first baseman made his final call, adding that he didn’t try to talk any players out of skipping the season. In a statement, Zimmerman cited the health and safety of his children, the youngest about one month old, as well as his at-risk mother for why he wouldn’t play in 2020.

The players’ choices were “tough decisions, kind of courageous decisions in my mind,” Rizzo said. “You know, the easy path is to just try and grind it out and take your chances. But [Zimmerman and Ross] felt it wasn’t worth the risk. We support both of them. These decisions were tough for them.”

Call it “spring training 2.0” or “summer camp,” Friday marked the first day of workouts for the Nationals in Washington. The first group of players arrived at Nationals Park at about 7:45 a.m., and the last players were likely to leave at 5:30 p.m., Martinez said.

Speaking for the first time since Major League Baseball implemented a 60-game season, Martinez said he agreed with his former boss, Angels manager Joe Maddon, that players who don’t feel they can abide by coronavirus safety protocols should opt out of playing.

“This is going to be tough for everybody,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to be mentally strong. You’ve got to be prepared for things that we’re not used to doing on a baseball field. Definitely going to be a work in progress. But I think our boys understand what’s happening. The guys that are here want this to work, and we’re going to do everything we can to make it work.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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