The Nationals trimmed eight more players from their spring roster leaving 38 in the major league camp. They optioned LHP pitcher Billy Traber to AAA New Orleans. They reassigned RHPs Kyle Denney, Saul Rivera, & Steve Watkins; CA Mike DiFelice; and, OFs Kenny Kelly and George Lombard. They also released LHP Valerio de los Santos per his contract.
Traber has pitched himself into the Nats long term plans as a SP. In 4GS (16IP) with 14H(2HR), 9R(4ER), 1BB, and 9K. Unfortunately for him, he was a victim of a numbers game of guaranteed major league contracts for SPs. With Livan Hernandez, John Patterson, Ramon Ortiz, Pedro Astacio, and Tony Armas ahead of him on the depth chart, Traber will likely be the first one called when the inevitable injury or if any of Ortiz/Astacio/Armas perform poorly. He will get plenty of work in the rotation in New Orleans.
Rivera and Watkins both pitched well enough this spring to be considered the first arms called upon if any of the projected bullpen struggles/is injured. Watkins is probably the favorite who should build on his spring numbers (15IP 10H 0HR 3R 2ER 2HBP 5BB 18K) in New Orleans. As mentioned yesterday, keep an eye on Gary Majewski. Rivera does not have the strikeout ability of Watkins, but has held his own in 7 spring relief appearances (10.2 IP 15H 0HR 3R 3ER 2BB 8K). Rivera should join Watkins and Traber in New Orleans.
Denney had a rough end to his spring, finishing with 15IP 21H 3HR 18R(17ER) 1HBP 5BB 1K. A trip to New Orleans is probable.
DiFelice is the second to fall by the wayside in the backup catcher derby (after Brandon Harper). While his numbers in the spring look good 387/424/484, he’s 36 years old and there is a better offensive catcher than him left in camp (Wiki Gonzalez) as well as better defensive catcher (Alberto Castillo). It wouldn’t surprise me to see DiFelice try and catch on with another team.
Lombard and Kelly will likely man the OF in New Orleans with Ty Godwin in 2006. That is unless Brandon Watson or Ryan Church are optioned down, in which case Kelly, Godwin and Lombard will platoon in the corner OF slots while Watson/Church work out in CF. Lombard had a non-descript spring 226/294/419 in 31AB, he has an interesting combinationof speed and power but is realistically a AAAA OF. Kelly impressed Robinson this spring 344/432/344 in 32AB. “He has turned it around 150 percent than he was last year,” Robinson said. “He had great at-bats and has great speed. He plays good defense, has a good arm and an outstanding personality. He brings energy to the ballclub. He makes things happen.” The problem is that each of Kelly’s 11H were singles. He projects well as a PR/defensive replacement in the OF.
De los Santos did nothing to impress (7IP 14H 3HR 12R 9ER 5BB 7K) in his time in camp. He’s a LOOGY so he’ll likely catch on somewhere.
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