Nationals grant Chris Young his release

Katherine Frey / The Washington Post

Katherine Frey / The Washington Post

The Nationals granted right-hander Chris Young his release this morning but remained hopeful, if not optimistic, they can hold on to Young if he cannot find a major league deal elsewhere. After his start last night, Young filed paperwork to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, saying he “loved” playing for the Nationals but wanted to land a guaranteed major league deal.

Pitching coach Steve “McCatty told me he was at our stadium, getting ready to go play catch,” Johnson said. “So I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. … Obviously, if he can get a big league starting job, he’s gone.”

Young has allowed no earned runs in his past nine innings while yielding three hits. Last night, he allowed two hits – a bunt and a bloop single — while walking a batter and hitting another.

As teams suffer attrition late in spring, Young may have suitors. Mets right-hander Shaun Marcum will likely begin the season on the disabled list, and the Mets sent a scout to Kissimmee last night to watch him pitch. The Twins and Padres have also been mentioned as possible landing spots for Young.

The Nationals wanted to keep Young to bolster their starting depth beyond an established starting five. Assuming Young finds a new team, the Nationals would need a new No. 6 starter, the first pitcher to step in should a Nationals starter suffer an injury.

“He just walked by,” Johnson said this morning, standing outside the Nationals clubhouse as left-hander Zach Duke ambled past.

The Nationals signed Duke to a one-year major league deal this offseason after he revived his career with Class AAA Syracuse last season. Duke, 29, went 15-5 with a 3.51 ERA before the Nationals called him up for September.

The Nationals had trouble attracting other candidates to step in as depth. Free agents knew the Nationals had an iron-clad rotation, and so they sought opportunity elsewhere. Beyond Duke, the Nationals could also use Ross Ohlendorf, Yunesky Maya and Tanner Roark as starting depth.  Nathan Karns, a prospect on  the 40-man roster could be a candidate later in the season,  but for now he has not pitched above Class A Potomac.

>>> Henry Rodriguez “felt good” today after pitching an inning yesterday, and the Nationals plan on him getting an inning tomorrow. One scout who watched Rodriguez last night, when he started with seven balls and nearly hit Rick Ankiel in the head with a fastball, called the outing, “scary.” That scout predicted the Nationals would start Rodriguez on the disabled list and begin the year with J.C. Romero in the bullpen. “He looked good,” the scout said.

Closer Rafael Soriano is scheduled to pitch Wednesday and Thursday. Today, Drew Storen will throw in a minor league game because, “he wants to work on some things,” Johnson said. Storen allowed a double in 2/3 of an inning last night.

Minor leaguer right-handed Taylor Jordan will start tomorrow in Jupiter for the Nationals’ split squad. The Nationals will be sending all minor leaguers for that one.

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