The Nationals finalized their opening day roster Sunday morning, and it includes 12 pitchers, 13 position players and no surprises. Chris Heisey and Matt Belisle are the two non-roster spring training invitees to make the team. No players with rookie status are on the opening day roster for the first time since 2013.
The roster was all but official when the Nationals selected Chris Heisey’s contract, optioned Trevor Gott to Class AAA Syracuse, and told Sean Burnett he did not make the team Friday night. Those moves left non-roster invitees Burnett, Reed Johnson, and Brendan Ryan to decide whether or not to opt out of their minor league deals with the team. Burnett and Johnson did, and were officially released Sunday morning. Ryan accepted re-assignment to Class AAA Syracuse, the team announced.
Burnett did not allow a run in nine spring training appearances, which endeared the former National to fans and impressed the staff. But Burnett has had two Tommy John surgeries, and the Nationals had two lefties already locked in with young Felipe Rivero and experienced Oliver Perez.
“It came down to a matter of numbers,” Baker said Saturday. “Who don’t you keep? Kelley signed a three-year contract. Belisle has an outstanding track record. Do you carry three left-handers or two left-handers? And the rest of the bullpen was kind of set as it was. Petit is coming off a couple World Series. It was a very, very, very tough decision, especially with Mike Rizzo involved, because he’s close to Sean Burnett. We would have liked to keep them all. And if they don’t get a big league job, we’d still like to have them back. But you can’t stand in the way of their careers and be so selfish that you want them back and they’re not in the big leagues and be in the minor leagues.”
Baker also expressed regret at not being able to keep Johnson, who he called “a popular player” and has referred to as one of the best fastball hitters in the game throughout the spring. As for Ryan, who threw off an injury-riddled year with the Yankees and showed off his plus-defensive abilities all spring, he will likely earn interest from other teams, though innings may be hard to come by in Syracuse, with Trea Turner and re-assigned veterans like Scott Sizemore headed there, too.
As expected, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross will be in the opening day rotation. Roark won 15 games as a starter in 2014 before heading back to the bullpen in 2015.
The opening day roster is below: