The chatter out of Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium today after the Washington Nationals' home-run filled, 11-2 win over the Atlanta Braves had to do with the final spot in the Nats' Opening Day bullpen. 26-year-old right-hander Henry Rodriguez was shaky again, but successfully completed a scoreless inning of relief work this afternoon, walking two and giving up a hit but no runs in the seventh. After Rodriguez, 36-year-old lefty J.C. Romero threw a scoreless eighth, surrendering a walk and a hit but no runs in the second outing after he signed with the Nationals following a strong showing for Puerto Rico in the WBC. The talk the last few days has been that though Romero was initially told he would likely start the season at Triple-A in the Nats' system, with Rodriguez struggling as he recovers from elbow surgery last summer, the veteran lefty might actually have a shot.
After today's game the Nationals announced two more roster moves that make the possibility of Romero making the Opening Day roster seem even more likely, though still not official:
The #Nationals today re-assigned LHP Fernando Abad and C Carlos Maldonado to minor league camp. Washington has 28 players left in camp.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) March 27, 2013
Abad, 27, had walked two and K'd eight in 7.0 IP this Spring, giving up five hits and two runs, both earned, in eight appearances, over which he had a 2.57 ERA. The former Houston Astros' starter/reliever was the last left-hander remaining in the Nats' bullpen other than Romero, so if the Nationals do go with a late-inning lefty instead of trusting their right-handers to get lefties out, it looks like it will be Romero.
Here's what the reporters on the scene had to say about Davey Johnson's post game comments:
Maldonado and Abad sent to minor league camp. Owings will go tomorrow. Romero will fly north to DC but he hasn't made team yet.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) March 27, 2013
JC Romero has been told that he's traveling w/team to D.C. but doesn't necessarily mean he'll make roster. Abad was told he will not make it— Amanda Comak (@acomak) March 27, 2013
J.C. Romero will travel with the Nats to DC, but no decision beyond that, he says. Fernando Abad sent to the minors.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) March 27, 2013
#Nats send Carlos Maldonado to minor league camp. Davey says Henry Rodriguez will pitch Friday. We can assume he's made the team.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) March 27, 2013
Henry Rodriguez or J.C. Romero? If Rodriguez's elbow is still an issue, the Nats could, of course, start him on the DL to keep Romero around. The last roster decision of the Spring looks like it will come down to the final exhibition game...