While the mood in the Washington Nationals clubhouse was somewhat somber in light of the news that starter John Lannan had been optioned to Class AAA Syracuse, a whirlwind afternoon that also included reliever Chad Durbin going to Atlanta meant opportunities for other pitchers.
Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus thus were at the same time relieved and elated they had made the opening day roster when they were thought to be on tenous ground entering Tuesday’s final exhibition game.
Stammen pitched one inning against in the 8-7 loss to Boston at Nationals Park, allowing one hit with no runs and one strikeout. Mattheus, whose right shouder was iced and wrapped tightly as he spoke in front of his locker, tossed one inning and gave up two hits and one run.
“It’s tough to pitch like that when you’re trying to make a ballclub,” said Mattheus, who surrendered a leadoff homer to Daniel Nava in the eighth that tied the game at 7. “It’s always in the back of your mind when you’re going out there to pitch, but this is a great ballclub, and I’m honored to be on it.”
The initial decision seemed to favor keeping Durbin, who was eligible to opt out of his minor league contract if he were sent down. Mattheus, meantime, had another option available.
But that choice became moot when during the game, the Braves announced they had acquired Durbin. Following the game, a Nationals spokesman made it official by confirming Durbin’s release.
Stammen’s big league security was not on as unstable ground as either Mattheus or Durbin after a productive spring in which he gave up three earned runs over 13 2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed 11 hits, walked two and struck out 13.
Still, it was refreshing to hear after he failed to make the opening day roster at the start of last season.
“Been throwing the ball as well as I have in my career, I think, going back to last year and the beginning of this spring training,” Stammen said. “I’m not going to say whether I should have made it or not made it, but I know that I can go to bed saying that I’ve done as best as I could at each stop, no matter if I got sent down or not.”
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