There were two sort-of surprising things in the latest round of roster moves the Washington Nationals announced this afternoon:
Optioned to Triple-A:
LHP Sam Clay
RHP Kyle McGowin
INF Luis García
INF Carter Kieboom
OF Yadiel Hernandez
Selected to the Major League Roster:
INF Jordy Mercer
INF/OF Hernán Pérez
Designated for Assignment:
INF Jake Noll
In discussing the Nationals’ infield options recently, with Carter Kieboom once again having trouble at the plate, it seemed like one option was to move Starlin Castro over to third base and have Luis García (20, and not exactly tearing it up this spring either) shift over to second base as he did last year when Castro was hurt, but he too is listed in the group of players optioned out to Triple-A Rochester, so it looks like it will be ... Castro at third base (provided his hamstring issues don’t keep him on the bench) with ... Josh Harrison at second base?
With Jordy Mercer and Hernán Pérez as veteran utility men on the bench?
Harrison, 33, after a two-hit night on Friday, is now 13 for 31 (.419/.471/.677) this spring after he joined the team last season and made a strong impression on Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez with his play in the 60-game COVID campaign.
Martinez talked glowingly of the versatile infielder/outfielder last night in his post game call with reporters.
“I love Josh. I love his energy. I love the way he plays the game,” Martinez said. He was asked if, given what Harrison has done since signing on in D.C., he might be up for an expanded or bigger role on the roster this season.
“He’s a student of the game, plays the game the right way, yeah, I definitely could see that happening,” the manager said. “When we got Josh last year, I knew of him for many, many years, I knew what he could do, he was an All-Star, he was hurt, and I knew that. He spent about a year and a half — had a wrist injury, so I felt like if he got healthy and that wrist got good, he’s a good player, and you can see that now, he’s fully healthy and he can do a lot of different things.
“I definitely can see him playing more than once, twice, or three times a week, so I love having him on this team, like I said, he can do so many different things.”
Starting at second base? Is that one of the many different things he can do? He’s played there more than any other position he’s played in the majors (443 career games) so the Nationals seem to think they’re better off with the veteran as part of the everyday infield, unless they have something else in mind.
While García seemed likely to get sent down from the start this spring, Kieboom, 23, was the expected everyday starter at third base going into camp, but after struggling in 2019 and 2020 when given opportunities in the majors, he struggled again this spring to make contact at the plate.
Through 17 games in Grapefruit League action, the 2016 1st Round pick (who’d put up a .181/.309/.232 line in 44 games in the majors over the last two seasons), went just 6 for 45 this spring (.133/.204/.222), with four walks and 17 Ks before he was optioned to Triple-A this afternoon.
“He’s got to keep battling. He’s got to keep battling, and like I said, things will turn for him, I know they will,” Martinez said this past Thursday night.
“He’s a good young player, so we’ll have to keep working with him and things will turn for him.”
He’ll apparently keep working at Triple-A, where there will be significantly less pressure on the infielder, who, again, is still just 23 years old.
When Martinez talked earlier this week about moving Castro over to third for the first time this spring, he said the club was just exploring its options, and cautioned reporters not to read too much into the move.
“This doesn’t mean anything. Like I said, we just want to see what this looks like right now.
“Carter is going to get an opportunity to play third base, so we’ll see how it looks like, and like I said, this is the last week. We got to hone in on some things. No decisions have been made yet, but we want to make sure that we take the 26 best guys that we could possibly take.”
What do you make of the Nationals’ latest roster moves? What do you think of the players that are still with the club and have, seemingly, made the Opening Day roster since there aren’t too many days left before Game 1 of 162 on April 1st?