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Nationals make first round of spring training roster cuts

Raudy Read could begin the season with Class AAA Fresno or Class AA Harrisburg. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — There was a bit of turnover in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse Sunday morning, when clocks were changed to account for daylight saving time and seven players were sent to minor league camp.

Catchers Raudy Read and Jakson Reetz; infielder Drew Ward; outfielder Mac Williamson; and right-handers Jhonatan German, Derek Self, and Paolo Espino made up the first round of spring training cuts. Read, who is on the 40-man roster, was optioned to Class AAA Fresno. The rest, all nonroster invitees to spring training, do not have specific assignments moving forward. Reetz, Ward, German and Self are expected to remain in the Nationals’ system. The team will have to make a decision on Williamson and Espino in the weeks ahead.

“The guys we sent down, I told them, ‘Hey, I never judge anybody in spring training,’ ” Manager Dave Martinez said. “They’re here because of merit and what they’ve done, and we believe they can help us in the future.”

The moves shaved the roster at major league camp to 55 players. It was surprising to see Read optioned this early, given that he appeared in six games for the Nationals last season. Martinez wants Read to get more at-bats and more experience working with pitchers, and he saw an opportunity for him to do that on the minor league side.

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The 26-year-old has gotten just 22 at-bats across two major league seasons, and he was suspended for 80 games in 2018 after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. He has flashed power in the minors but has yet to answer questions about his defense and game-calling. Read and Tres Barrera are the two extra catchers on the 40-man roster, providing insurance behind Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. The club also could have veteran Welington Castillo if he accepts a minor league assignment when the season begins.

Read has just one minor league option remaining and is running out of chances to prove himself. The Nationals expect to keep their preferred third catcher at Class AA Harrisburg so he is readily available in case Gomes or Suzuki is injured. But Martinez suggested Read could end up with Fresno or Harrisburg to start the year and that optioning him to the Grizzlies on Sunday was more a formality than an indication of the pecking order.

“Raudy has all the tools. We just have to get him to be more consistent behind the plate,” Martinez said. “Just continue to get at-bats. If one of our two guys goes down, he’s on the roster. He’s a guy that will potentially come up and help us. . . .

“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with him yet, whether we’re going to keep him closer. When we sit down to see where everybody else is at, that would be a pretty good idea for me that he would be closer. But we’ll see.”

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