With the end of Spring Training approaching and Opening Day drawing near, Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker talked on Sunday about taking the final roster decisions down to the wire and giving players on the so-called bubble more time to prove that they deserve their roster spots.
"You certainly want to look at the bigger picture," Baker explained, as quoted by MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman.
"But, I mean, if we had our minds made up, we would've said so by now. Evidently, it's important down to the wire. If you can't handle this pressure for a job, competition for a job, how are you gonna handle the pressure in September or in the World Series or playoffs?"
With a bench spot and a couple bullpen roles still up for grabs, the Nats made their latest rounds of cuts this afternoon when they optioned infielder Trea Turner and reliever Rafael Martin to Triple-A Syracuse and reassigned relievers Aaron Laffey and Nick Masset, infielder Scott Sizemore, outfielder Tony Campana and catcher Jhonatan Solano to minor league camp.
The Nationals announced the moves on Twitter this afternoon, after the final game scheduled to be played in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium was washed out by rain:
The #Nats have optioned RHP Rafael Martin and INF Trea Turner to Triple-A Syracuse.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 28, 2016
The #Nats have reassigned LHP Aaron Laffey, OF Tony Campana, RHP Nick Masset, INF Scott Sizemore & C Jhonatan Solano to Minor League. camp.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 28, 2016
The decision to option Turner to their top minor league affiliate cements the fact that Danny Espinosa will start the season as the Nationals' shortstop.
Turner, 22, was 9 for 36 with a double, triple, home run and seven stolen bases in seven attempts in 22 games this Spring, but both Baker and Nats' GM Mike Rizzo have pointed to his relative lack of minor league at bats as a reason why he could end up starting the season in the minors before this afternoon's decision was announced. Holding him back until June 1st-ish, will also guarantee the Nationals another year of team control.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson announced earlier this afternoon that right-handed reliever Matt Belisle will make the Nationals' 25-Man roster, though that move has not been confirmed by the Nationals yet:
Baker confirmed today that Belisle will make the Opening Day roster:
Dusty Baker basically said Matt Belisle will make the opening day bullpen, but they still have to work out contract details.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 28, 2016
With Martin, Laffey and Masset out of the bullpen picture, and assuming Belisle makes the Opening Day roster, that leaves Sean Burnett, Trevor Gott and Blake Treinen competing for what would be the last spot in the Nationals' 'pen though the Nationals could start the season with eight relievers and four starters, delaying a final decision even further...
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