The Nationals made their latest round of cuts this afternoon when they optioned catcher Jesus Flores and right-handed reliever/starter Craig Stammen to Class AAA Syracuse.
Neither move comes as a surprise, but both players have at point been significant pieces of the Nationals’ major league team. Flores was the team’s regular catcher in 2008 and the start of 2009, while Stammen opened last season as part of the Nationals’ starting rotation.
Flores’s demotion finalized a decision that had already become apparent: Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez will begin the season as the Nationals’ two catchers. Flores entered spring training as one of the Nationals’ upbeat stories, having finally come back from a devastating series of shoulder injuries and setbacks.
During the spring, though, it became clear Flores, 26, would have to continue his return in the minors. Flores went 3 for 24 with a home run, a double and five walks in 15 games. His time in Syracuse will allow Flores to continue to readjust to major league pitching and strength his throwing arm.
“I knew it was going to be a really good challenge for me to make the team,” Flores said. “Both of those guys, one is a legend and the other is a good, young kid with great talent. But at the same time, I trust myself. I know what I have done in the past, and I know what I can do in the future. I’m going to keep trusting myself, do what I have to do to make the team again.”
Since the winter, the Nationals have planned on giving Rodriguez the starting catcher position, at least for the beginning of the season, and letting Ramos and Flores compete for the second spot. They want both Flores and Ramos to receive regular time and develop, and Flores will be able to catch every day with Syracuse.
“It’s not sad,” Flores said. “It doesn’t feel good listening to what you don’t want to hear. At the same, it helps me to keep battling myself to be better, to keep working harder and harder and show the player I can be.”
>>> The Nationals did not have a lineup posted for tonight’s game in Lakeland, but they do have one ready to go for tomorrow. And it’s noteworthy: Ryan Zimmerman is scheduled to return, and Jayson Werth will be hitting second. I wouldn’t read anything into that; it’s not like there will be many lineups this year without Ian Desmond but with Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina penciled in.
Here’s tomorrow’s lineup, against the Cardinals:
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Roger Bernadina, LF
6. Jerry Hairston, SS
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Alex Cora, 2B
9. Tom Gorzelanny