Casto Says Goodbye, For Now

By Barry Svrluga and Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 1, 2007

Kory Casto did nothing but impress Washington Nationals coaches, executives and teammates this spring. So yesterday, when he was the club's final cut before Opening Day tomorrow, General Manager Jim Bowden had a one-word description of the move: "Devastating."

Casto, a versatile left-handed hitter, was optioned to Class AAA Columbus, where Bowden said he will play left field along with some first base and some third base. He has not played above Class AA in his four-year professional career.

But Casto was the victim of a numbers game. Not only did the Nationals want to keep 12 pitchers, leaving five spots on the bench, but his two primary competitors -- outfielders Ryan Church and Chris Snelling -- were both out of options, meaning other teams could have claimed them had the Nationals tried to send them to the minors.

For the same reason, the Nationals also optioned reliever Saul Rivera, who went 3-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 54 appearances for Washington last season, to Columbus. That move became inevitable on Wednesday, when the club purchased the contract of reliever Jesus Colome, who could have become a free agent had he not made the team.

"Tough decisions," Bowden said. "Both of those guys belong on this team. They won't let us carry 27 [players]. They have options. Other guys don't. They'd both be on there if other guys had options."

Bowden and Manager Manny Acta said Casto took the news exceptionally well.

"I wasn't going to let myself think [making the team] was going to happen," Casto said. "I just kind of went along and did my business and if it didn't happen, we'd go from there. I had a lot of fun."

Casto's demotion also came in part because center fielder Nook Logan's strained groin is no longer hampering him. Logan played for the second straight day yesterday, striking out and sacrificing in two plate appearances and going back deep to track down a fly ball.

O's Roster Surprise

The Baltimore Orioles' 25-man Opening Day roster, which will be announced today, will include one big surprise. Left-handed reliever Brian Burres has made the team, while reliever Todd Williams cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Norfolk, according to one baseball source. Outfielder Jay Payton, who is nursing a strained left hamstring, will start the season on the disabled list and will be eligible to be activated on April 10.

Utility man Freddie Bynum won the last roster spot as the Orioles will carry 13 pitchers, including three left-handers (Burres, John Parrish and Jamie Walker) in the bullpen. Paul Bako and Chris Gomez will comprise the rest of the bench.

Williams had spent the past two full seasons with the Orioles and in 2005 was one of the team's most reliable relievers. But Williams faltered last season (4.74 ERA) and was not tendered a contract for arbitration. The Orioles later re-signed him to a one-year guaranteed $775,000 contract.

Williams had a 2.16 ERA this spring compared with Burres' 4.36 ERA. But Burres can pitch multiple innings while Williams is mostly a one-inning reliever. The rest of the bullpen will be Chris Ray, Danys Baez, Scott Williamson, Chad Bradford and Jeremy Guthrie.

Acta Sets the Order

With the roster set, Acta announced his batting order, with the only minor surprise being that catcher Brian Schneider will hit sixth. "He's a lot better hitter than what I remember," Acta said.

Thus, the order: Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young, Schneider, Ryan Church and Logan. . . . Bowden said he was surprised more starting pitchers weren't released by other clubs. "We were scouring," he said.

O's Fan Fest Today The Orioles will hold their annual "Fan Fest" today at Camden Yards before departing for Minnesota tonight. Up Next Tomorrow, Marlins at Nationals, 1 p.m., MASN Tomorrow, Orioles at Twins, 7 p.m., MASN

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