WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals made their first round of Spring Training roster moves on Sunday morning to bring the squad to 55.
The team optioned catcher Raudy Read to Triple-A Fresno, and re-assigned pitchers Paolo Espino, Jhonatan German and Derek Self, catcher Jakson Reetz, infielder Drew Ward and outfielder Mac Williamson to Minor League camp. All but Read were non-roster invitees.
Read, 26, has appeared in 14 games for the Nationals across the 2017 and '19 seasons. Since 2011, he has played in 632 Minor League games for Washington's affiliates. He hit .275/.317/.546 with 20 home runs in Triple-A last year. Read played in six matchups this spring, batting .182/.308/.545 with a home run.
“Raudy’s got all the tools,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We just need to get him to be more consistent behind the plate and continue to get at-bats. If one of our two [veteran catchers] go down, he’s on the roster. He’s a guy who potentially could come up here and help us.”
While Read was optioned to Triple-A Fresno, that doesn’t mean he will start the season there. The Nats’ Double-A affiliate is located in Harrisburg, Pa., significantly closer than California. If the team were to need to call up Read, having him closer to Washington would be more convenient.
“It’s hard,” Martinez said. “You lose a player, they’ve got to take two flights to get here and don’t show up until gametime a lot of times. I thought Rizz [general manager Mike Rizzo], [assistant general manager, player development] Mark Scialabba and all those guys down there did a great job on getting them here when they could. But it’s tough being that far.”
Of the non-roster invitees, Williamson appeared in the most games (11), followed by Ward (8), who has been in the Nats’ Minor League system since 2013. Washington made the moves with two weeks remaining in Spring Training, a time when players need to get stretched out and into a routine leading up to Opening Day.
“The guys we sent down, I told them, ‘Hey, I never judge anybody in Spring Training,’” Martinez said. “They’re here because of merit and what they’ve done. We believe they can help us in the future. And it’s nice, especially the first-timers, to experience what we do here and go down there and knock the door down and lead.”
Latest on Eaton
Martinez isn’t worried about Adam Eaton’s absence at this point. The right fielder left the Nats’ March 3 game against the Orioles with left hamstring tightness, and he hasn’t played since.
Eaton hit on Saturday and is running at “75, 80 percent,” Martinez said, a figure that doesn’t clear him yet to return. Because Eaton arrived to Florida in early January, he had a chance to get started on his 2020 season preparation well ahead of Spring Training.
“I’ll start getting concerned if he’s not playing within the next five or six days,” Martinez said. “We could ramp him up here fairly quickly. For me, I told him -- just like these other guys -- ‘Until you show me you can do everything, you’re going to just stay back there.’”
Birthday long balls
Jake Noll celebrated his 26th birthday by belting his first home run of the spring in the Nats’ 7-5 loss to the Tigers. His shot to left field in the sixth inning was followed up two batters later by Yadiel Hernandez, who also hit a homer in the same direction as heavy winds blew throughout afternoon. Earlier in the day, Noll’s teammates gave him birthday well wishes in the clubhouse.
The Nationals have an off-day on Monday, and they will return to game action on the road against the Marlins on Tuesday. Left-hander Ben Braymer is scheduled to start; it will be his third appearance of the spring. First pitch at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. is scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. ET. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.