Thursday morning the Washington Nationals continued trimming their roster in an effort to bring it down to the 25-man group they’ll take to Chicago to open the season next week. Outfielder Jason Michaels and infielder Andres Blanco were both re-assigned to minor league camp while left-hander Atahualpa Severino was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse along with right-hander Ryan Perry.
Michaels had signed a minor league contract with the Nationals and was hoping to make the club in a bench role, but he’s simply been outplayed for much of the Spring (he only batted .220 with one home run in 20 games) and a move had been expected for the past few days. Reports this morning stated that he had been released by the team as he has an out clause in his contract, meaning he is free to try free agency rather than report to Syracuse if he so chooses, but at the time they proved to be a little premature. Michaels did end up exercising his out clause after the team’s 6-3 victory over the Braves, at which point the team did release him.
Blanco is in a similar position to Michaels, having signed a minor league deal over the winter with a similar out clause. He was directly in competition with Steve Lombardozzi for the backup infielder role and needed a big Spring in order to win a spot from the seemingly growing fan favorite. Lombardozzi hasn’t formally been given that job, at least according to Davey Johnson, but it seems pretty certain that he’ll be with the team once the season begins.
Meanwhile, Severino was never really expected to be in competition for a spot in Washington’s bullpen but was likely kept around this long for depth purposes. Considering the team’s bullpen will likely feature three southpaws (Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny, and Ross Detwiler) this seems like the wise move in sending Severino down to the minor leagues. He made his MLB Debut this past season, pitching 4.2 innings over 6 appearances with 7 strikeouts and just one walk.
Perry, acquired in a December trade with Detroit for Collin Balester (who may win the final spot in the Tigers bullpen solely due to the fact that he’s out of options), had a good first Spring with the Nationals, striking out 9 and walking only 2 over 6 appearances. He likely lost a spot in the bullpen due mostly to a numbers crunch, as the team really has more viable options than available spots at the moment. Perry – along with Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen, I’m guessing – will solidify the Syracuse bullpen until they are needed in Washington.