WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Lefty reliever Sammy Solís was released by the Nationals on Saturday in a move that does a couple of things. First, it acknowledges the reality that he was not in position to make the team. Second, it gives him time to catch on with another club by Opening Day.
“I thought it best that he get an opportunity to go somewhere else to make the team,” manager Dave Martinez said. “For me, it was more about giving Sammy an opportunity to latch on with another team and get a chance to have that Spring Training elsewhere. I’ve always liked Sammy, but I didn’t feel that at this point in time he was going to make the team.”
There’s also a financial component, although not a large one. By releasing Solis on Saturday, the Nationals are obligated to pay one-sixth -- around $142,000 -- of his $850,000 contract.
To say the decision caught Solis by surprise would be an understatement. As his teammates were reporting to the clubhouse, he was packing a bag and departing.
“I’d say completely off guard,” Solis said. “It’s obviously part of it. I’ve seen it happen to a million guys. Just feeling so good right now, and kind of grooving, finding my stride. I wasn’t really ready for it.”
Solis, who had appeared in 141 games over the previous four seasons for the Nats, pitched well this spring, as he posted a 2.25 ERA in four games. But he struggled over the previous two seasons, compiling a 6.20 ERA in 86 appearances.
Those numbers were a sharp drop from his first two seasons, during which he posted a solid 2.74 ERA over 55 games. Left-handed batters hit .329 off him in 2018.
Martinez said that with a left-handed closer in Sean Doolittle and a left-handed setup man in Matt Grace along with other relievers -- righty Trevor Rosenthal is one -- he trusts against left-handed hitters, Solis was caught in a numbers crunch.
“It’s part of it,” Solis said. “I’ll go shopping around and find a job. I feel healthy. It’s tough to find a reason, but that’s not what I’m concerned with at this point. Ready to move on. I shook Davey’s hand and thanked him for everything.”
Thus ends a relationship with the Nationals that lasted almost nine years, from the moment Solis was selected in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He’d come through the system with Michael A. Taylor, Aaron Barrett Grace and others.
“I’m more bummed about leaving the organization that drafted me,” Solis said. “All my buddies are here. Saying bye to that is tough. It’s tough, especially it being so fresh. Thirty minutes ago, I had a job, and now I don’t. It’s just the way it works. Those guys are like brothers to me. Some of them I’ve known for almost 10 years. Tough saying bye to those guys. I’ll see ‘em from another dugout, I’m sure.”
But a left-hander with a power fastball will get a chance elsewhere.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think I’ll have an opportunity somewhere. It’s just where. Even if it’s not immediately, maybe I go home and get some more work in -- or relax a bit. We’ll see what happens.”