Washington then sent 12 players out of camp before it breaks on Sunday. The Nationals optioned right-hander Austin Adams, catcher Pedro Severino and outfielder Andrew Stevenson to Triple-A Syracuse and re-assigned left-handers Tim Collins and Tommy Milone, right-handers Edwin Jackson and Chris Smith, first baseman Chris Dominguez, catcher Spencer Kieboom and outfielder Moises Sierra. Outfielder Ryan Raburn and infielder Reid Brignac were released.
"I've sat in these meetings before. The discussions are always tough," first-time manager Dave Martinez said. "Unfortunately, in this game, you have to make these kind of decisions, but they're never easy."
Montero, who was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, makes the club as the backup catcher to Matt Wieters. Even though Montero entered camp with extensive big league experience and familiarity with Martinez (the two spent three seasons together with the Cubs) and general manager Mike Rizzo (who was with the D-backs when Montero was signed), he was given no assurances upon entering camp.
"We were brutally honest with him. We told him from Day 1, 'You have to make the team,'" Martinez said. "And he's hit the ball well. I know he handles the staff really well, pitchers really well, and he's always been a good clutch hitter.
"And I like him, I really do. He brings that little spark plug, that energy."
The Nationals inserted Montero into the starting lineup for Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Marlins at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches because they wanted him to get a chance to catch right-hander Max Scherzer and further develop that relationship. The two were together in Arizona, although they are much different players these days.
"We both enjoyed working today with each other and getting a sense of what's it going to take to execute different pitches," Scherzer said after he gave up four runs and struck out nine in seven innings during his final Grapefruit League outing. "It was a good chance to get familiar with him and for him to get familiar with me."
The Nationals' potential roster is now much more in focus.
Right-hander Trevor Gott, left-handers Sammy Solis, Enny Romero and Matt Grace all remain in camp competing for bullpen spots. Matt Reynolds and Adrian Sanchez are the final two infielders vying for a spot on the bench. Of that group, both Romero and Grace are out of options.
Martinez said those final decisions will almost certainly come after the team heads to Washington.
Up next The Nationals conclude their Grapefruit League schedule at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday against the Cardinals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for his final spring tune-up. Watch live on MLB.TV.