Eddie Guardado among first Nationals cuts
The Nationals trimmed their spring training camp for the first time this morning, giving pitchers Shawn Estes and Eddie Guardado their outright release and reassigning pitchers Victor Garate, Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta and Ryan Speier, catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Jerry Owens to minor league.
The Nationals reduced their roster to 53 players, and by letting go six pitchers they will be able to more closely examine the pitchers contending for the final spots in the bullpen and the starting rotation.
"It's that time where you got to start getting the numbers down to a more manageable number, especially the pitching," Manager Jim Riggleman said.
Guardado, a 17-year veteran who carries the nickname "Everyday Eddie," is probably the most surprising cut. Guardado appeared in 48 games last season and figured to compete for a role in the Nationals bullpen as a left-handed specialist. In two outings this spring, Guardado allowed four earned runs on seven hits.
"We respect everything Eddie has done in the game," Riggleman said. "But the more we looked at it, we just felt we may not carry two left-handers in the bullpen. And if we did carry two, there's a couple other guys who we want to watch in that role. We just felt if Eddie's got a chance to get to another camp, better do it now than later."
The Nationals can afford to make Sean Burnett their only left-handed reliever in part because right-hander Tyler Clippard held lefites to a .122 batting average last year. The Nationals' potential second lefty would be Ron Villone, who had a 4.25 ERA in 63 games last year. Villone helped stabilize the Nationals bullpen when Mike Rizzo acquired him early last season, but from June 14 until the end of the year he had a 6.53 ERA.
Norris played in Hagerstown last season and came to camp to gain experience, not to compete for a roster spot. Baseball American rated him the 39th overall prospect in the sport.
"I told Derek he's got a big chance to be a part of the future here," Riggleman said. "He's got some special skills. He doesn't look like a guy that can run, but he can run pretty well. The ball jumps off his bat. He can throw. He's got to go down there and learn it."
As for today, there's a chance the Nationals' game against the Astros will be rained out. The tarp is on the field and it's pouring rain, although the forecast calls for a decent shot it will clear up. Tomorrow will bring an overwhelming chance at a rainout. The Nationals will take batting practices in the cages.
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