The Nationals separated wheat from chaff in their major league camp today, whittling their roster, other than two spare catchers, to only players who seemingly have a viable chance to make the opening day roster.
The Nationals optioned reliever Christian Garcia, right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, catcher Jhonatan Solano and infielder Zach Walters to Class AAA Syracuse. They also reassigned non-roster invitees Will Rhymes, Manny Delcarmen and Brock Peterson to minor league camp.
Among those cuts, Ohlendorf may be the most notable. He signed a one-year, $1.25 million guaranteed contract this winter. But he struggled through minor back injuries all spring, and the Nationals will keep him in reserve in the minors. He excelled when called upon last season, going 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA in a swing role.
The most compelling player left after the Nationals cleaned house may be Blake Treinen, a 25-year-old right-hander the Nationals acquired last winter in the trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle. Treinen has wowed rival scouts and Nationals officials with his booming velocity – he hit 98 miles per hour in his last outing – and the wicked movement on his sinker. On one scout’s radar gun, Treinen hit 101 mph in a playoff game last season for Class AA Harrisburg.
Treinen has allowed five earned runs in nine innings this spring, striking out eight and walking three. He has experience in relief and feels comfortable in the role. Though probably a longshot because he is not on the 40-man roster, the Nationals may still be considering him for their final bullpen spot.
The Nationals have three apparent vacancies on their opening day roster: the final bench spot, the last spot in the bullpen and fifth starter. Here’s how the remaining players in camp fit into each competition, in order of our projected likelihood they win:
Bench: Jamey Carroll, Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus
Bullpen: Aaron Barrett, Michael Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno, Blake Treinen, Ryan Mattheus
Starter: Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Chris Young
Now, if Roark does not win the fifth starter competition, he would likely make the team in the bullpen. It’s worth noting, too, that Mattheus’s place in this order came only because he got hurt early in camp and hasn’t been able to pitch. Also, catchers Chris Snyder and Sandy Leon remain in camp, but Jose Lobaton has the backup job wrapped up.