The Washington Nationals activated catcher Matt Wieters off the disabled list on Monday, hoping to gauge whether the former All-Star can hold down the starting job or if the team needs to explore the trade market for a replacement. In a corresponding move, 24-year-old Pedro Severino was sent down to Triple-A Syracuse, seemingly in an effort to allow him to work on his mechanics in an everyday capacity.
Severino, 24, earned a call-up to the majors four days into the season when Wieters made the first of his two trips to the DL.
In 63 games with the Nats, he’s hit .171 with two home runs, 15 RBIs and 46 strikeouts.
His struggles at the plate contributed to an overall .558 OPS for Washington out of the catching position entering play Tuesday—just one point higher than that of the Baltimore Orioles for the worst catchers’ OPS in the league.
According to The Washington Post, Severino’s defense also started to become a negative factor. Nationals beat reporter Chelsea Janes wrote that “more than once, [Gio Gonzalez] has shown visible frustration with Severino. Other pitchers have mentioned misunderstandings with Severino and [Spencer] Kieboom, too. All of that is to be expected of rookie catchers learning on the job. This team, and this rotation, cannot afford those problems now.”
Severino also drew the ire of his manager when he flipped his bat following an emphatic three-run homer against the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
During his postgame press conference, Davey Martinez was asked about Severino’s decision to celebrate out of the batter’s box after he connected for the home run.
“I didn’t like that, no,” Martinez said. “We talked about that too. I’m not a big fan of that. I get these guys that hit a lot of home runs, whatever, but when you have two? The bat flip doesn’t play … and he knows about that now.”
It appears Severino has lost the favor of the Nats’ brass, who decided to keep Kieboom on the major-league roster over Severino. Kieboom is three years older than Severino but has played in just 22 games at the MLB level compared to Severino’s 98 over the span of four seasons.
Severino will likely be called back up once the rosters expand in September and still has one minor-league option remaining, so he’s not going to be released any time soon.
However, with the Nats’ top catching prospect Raudy Read back from suspension, Kieboom earning himself an extended look and several prominent catchers entering free agency this offseason, the team will have to factor Severino’s development into its decision-making process moving forward.
Although he was never heralded for his hitting tools as a prospect, Severino was always seen as a strong defender who could command a game well. If he’s proven to fall short in those aspects of his game, his future with the Nats may be in doubt.