Michael Gonzalez in 2012 playoffs. (Jeff Roberson/AP) Michael Gonzalez in 2012 playoffs. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

The Nationals released left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez, paring down the competition for their final bullpen position. Always considered a longshot to make the opening day roster, Gonzalez had allowed four earned runs in four innings this spring.

“You never want to give up a run, dude,” Gonzalez said yesterday. “But I’m happy with the way I feel. I feel healthy. Arm feels live. I know I can go out there and compete at the big league level. That’s the big thing. … I know I can pitch in the big leagues. That’s not a doubt in my mind. I’m good with it.”

With Gonzalez out of the running, the choice for the final bullpen spot will come down to either right-hander Aaron Barrett or left-hander Xavier Cedeno, with Tanner Roark a likelihood in the event Taylor Jordan claims the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Right-hander Ryan Mattheus remains in camp, too, but a chest injury at the start of spring disallowed him from building enough arm strength to begin the season in the majors.

Both Cedeno and Barrett, Class AA Harrisburg’s closer, can be optioned to the minor leagues. Barrett has been one of the most impressive pitchers in camp, having allowed zero runs in 9 2/3 innings. The Nationals may start the season with Cedeno so they have a third left-handed reliever in their bullpen, which would allow them to match up with lefty-heavy lineups from New York and Atlanta, who they face early in the season.