Last week, an unimportant minor league transaction trickled across the news ticker: Relief pitcher Atahualpa Severino signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals. But for those who have followed the path of the Nationals from Montreal to Washington it was noteworthy. Earlier this month, Severino, one of the handful of players left in the Nationals organization with ties to the Montreal Expos days, was granted free agency. And when he signed with the Royals, perhaps more symbolically than anything, another connection to that time long ago was cut.
Severino, along with players such as Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina, was one of the few remaining players in the Nationals system who remembers the organization’s time in Montreal. The left-hander signed with Montreal as a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, a hard-throwing left-hander with potential in 2004, the same year the Expos drafted Desmond.
Severino was on the Nationals 40-man roster for parts of the past three seasons, and was before last season, one of the few players signed out of Latin America on the Nationals roster since baseball returned to Washington. But when the Nationals needed a spot on the roster this August for Cesar Izturis, they designed Severino for assignment. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Syracuse to finish the season. It was a sign the end was coming.
Severino spent seven years in the Nationals’ minor leagues, reaching Syracuse in 2010 at 25. He made his major league debut on Sept. 6, 2011 as a call-up, appearing in six games and allowing only two runs over 4 2/3 innings. While he had the ability to strike batters out, Severino struggled, allowing too many walks and hits. In 48 innings with Syracuse last season, he posted a 2.81 ERA with three saves and struck out 43 but walked 36 batters.
As the Nationals continue to forge a new history in Washington, there will be fewer pieces of their past — but it’s worth remembering them, players like Severino, who watched a franchise leave one town, move to another and start all over.