WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Washington Nationals made six more spring training cuts Wednesday morning, shaving their group down to 45 players with the regular season just 15 days away.
That number will grow to 46 in the coming days, once veteran reliever Tony Sipp passes his physical and his one-year, $1 million becomes official. Right as they agreed to a deal with Sipp on Wednesday, the Nationals optioned reliever Austin Adams to the Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies and reassigned infielder Luis Garcia, catcher Taylor Gushue, infielder Matt Reynolds, infielder Jacob Wilson and utility man Brandon Snyder to minor league camp. Adams was optioned to a specific team because he is on Washington’s 40-man roster. The other five players will be sorted to a specific team in the near future, assuming all of them remain with the organization into the season.
Garcia was the most notable of Wednesday’s roster moves, the only 18-year-old in a big league camp this spring. The Nationals are excited about his potential — especially after his three-hit, two-RBI game against the Houston Astros on Sunday — and they figure he can get more at-bats and opportunities in minor league camp. He has been working at second base this spring, along with top infield prospect Carter Kieboom, but Manager Dave Martinez wants to keep Garcia at second base so he can grow in his natural position.
“The kid’s had an unbelievable camp, and I love what I saw from him,” Martinez said of Garcia on Wednesday. “But he needs to go down there and play regularly and get ready for the season.”
Martinez wants Garcia to go be a leader in minor league camp, even if many of the players are older than him, and continue to refine his defense and base running. Martinez was pleased that Garcia bunted for a single Sunday, and he often has to remind himself that the Dominican Republic native is still a teenager. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he is far away from a major league debut. The Nationals were impressed with an outfielder named Juan Soto last spring, had a handful of early-season injuries in their outfield and called up Soto from the Class AA Harrisburg Senators in mid-May. Soto went on to have one of the best 19-year-old seasons in major leaguel history and finished second in National League rookie of the year voting.
Garcia knows that. And it’s all hard for Martinez to forget.
“He’s a great kid and he’s happy that he is going down there to play every day,” Martinez said. “And he tells me, ‘I want to be back soon.’ I said, ‘You probably will be, so just keep doing what you’re doing.’ ”