The Nationals made their first round of cuts from big league spring training and reassigned six players to minor league on Sunday morning. Infield prospect Matt Skole was among the players sent to the adjacent minor league complex to continue spring training.
The reason to send Skole, 24, to minor league camp was simple: he needs playing time, especially after missing most of 2013 with Tommy John surgery and a broken wrist. In his first big league spring training last year, he impressed coaches and teammates with his power and potential. But in April, in his second game with Class AA Harrisburg, an opponent ran into his left arm as he extended for a throw at first base. He broke his wrist and an elbow ligament snapped.
Skole played in the Arizona Fall League, but the Nationals believed he had a lot of at-bats to make up and he wasn’t getting much playing time on the big league side.
“With all that happened to him last year, I think he needs some consistent at-bats,” said Matt Williams, who managed Skole in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. “So that’s why we made the move today, get him some multiple at-bats in a game and let him get his timing back a bit. When you miss that amount of time, it’s difficult, though.”
Skole will play both first and third base this season. Williams said Skole moves well at third base for a big man — Skole is 6 feet 4, 220 pounds — but could likely project as a first baseman. With a potential opening at first base in the majors, Skole’s development will be interesting to watch. Adam LaRoche holds a $15 million mutual option for 2015, when he will be 35. Tyler Moore struggled last season after a strong showing in 2012.
Also reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday were right-handed reliever Gabriel Alfaro, catcher Jeff Howell, left-handed reliever Tyler Robertson, infielder Josh Johnson and catcher Brian Jeroloman. Alfaro allowed one run over two innings this spring, Robertson had two scoreless innings and Howell went 0 for 2, appearing in only two games. Johnson had surgery to remove a hamate bone from his hand in spring training and Jeroloman is still dealing with post-concussion symptoms stemming from a collision last September.
Nationals big league camp now has 57 players.