March 8, 2018 at 5:15 PM
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — About a minute before Stephen Strasburg fired a fastball to begin the Washington Nationals’ 15th Grapefruit League game Thursday afternoon, the club announced its first round of spring training cuts to its major league camp.
Austin Voth was the only 40-man roster member sent to the minor league side. He was formally optioned to Class AAA Syracuse. The seven others were reassigned to minor league games. The list includes pitchers Jimmy Cordero, Brady Dragmire, David Goforth, Roman Mendez and Cesar Vargas; catcher Taylor Gushue; and middle infielder Osvaldo Abreu.
Voth, 25, allowed three runs in three one-inning outings this spring. He appeared to have recovered his usual velocity in the upper 80s after a plunge during a forgettable 2017 season, when the right-hander pitched to a 5.94 ERA in 24 starts between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse. Of the pitchers cut, Dragmire saw the most action, compiling seven innings across three appearances. He surrendered two runs on a couple of solo home runs.
An offense-first catcher, the 24-year-old Gushue went 1 for 13 at the plate with five strikeouts in eight games. Abreu, 23, amassed a hit and a walk in 11 plate appearances.
The round of cuts leaves 53 players in major league camp for the Nationals.
—Fans at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches were treated Thursday to clashes between electrifying stars Bryce Harper and Noah Syndergaard, a pair of personalities with no love lost between them on the field and in the social media sphere.
In their first encounter, Harper cracked a line-drive single to left field for a single off the Mets ace. He then swiped second base with a headfirst slide, capitalizing on Syndergaard’s slow move to the plate to reach scoring position even if that heady baserunning isn’t exactly necessary on March 8. Syndergaard exacted his revenge in the third inning by blowing a 93-mph slider past a swinging Harper for strike three. Syndergaard ended up striking out the side in the frame — he also punched out Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon — and finished his outing with seven straight strikeouts.
Harper finished his day at the plate with a second line-drive single to left field, this time off Jeurys Familia, in the fifth inning. The hit scored Trea Turner, who had knocked in a run with a single.
—Wander Suero, who entered the day with a 0.00 ERA in four Grapefruit League outings, exited the game after throwing just two pitches in the ninth inning. Manager Dave Martinez said the right-hander complained of tightness in his left side and will be reevaluated. An MRI exam had not yet been scheduled.
—Howie Kendrick left the game earlier than scheduled after singling in his only at-bat and stealing a base, but Martinez said it wasn’t because of an injury. The manager explained Kendrick had “heavy legs.”
—Matt Adams continued his torrid spring with his first home run — a two-run shot against Familia later in the fifth inning. Adams is 6 for 14 with a double, triple and home run in six games this spring. Miguel Montero added a solo shot off Familia in the sixth for his first homer in exhibition play.
—Enny Romero endured a turbulent fifth inning in relief, surrendering a leadoff triple to Brandon Nimmo and later loading the bases. But the left-hander escaped having allowed just one run thanks to an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
—Victor Robles added to his spring highlight reel with another standout defensive play in center field in the eighth inning. The Nationals’ top prospect made a catch running into the wall in center. He was shaken up after the impact but remained in the game. He appeared just fine when he delivered a two-run single to right field, stole second base, took third on the catcher’s errant throw to center field, and scored in the bottom of the frame.