The Washington Nationals made six roster moves to their training camp roster today, most notably dropping left-handed reliever Ron Villone. The Nationals also assigned Atahualpa Severino, Juan Jamie, Ryan Mattheus, Collin Balester and Aaron Thompson to minor league camp.
Villone, a 14-year veteran, was expected to make the club and serve as one of two lefties in the Nationals bullpen. Villone was one of the more stable relievers for the Nationals last season in an unstable campaign, in 64 appearances he posted a 4.25 ERA. Villone however struggled against fellow lefties in 2009, posting a .297 batting average against. Rizzo says that he doesn't expect this to be the end for Villone, stating that another major league club who needs a lefty will probably give him a call.
Among the six players re-assigned, Collin Balester and Aaron Thompson stick out as the most notable.
Thompson has been one of the best pitchers in camp for Washington this spring, allowing only one hit and no runs in four innings of action. You'll remember that Thompson was the piece in the puzzle that the Nats got in return from the Marlins for Nick Johnson last summer. Thompson, a former first round pick for the Marlins out of high school, seemed to be stuck in AA until last season when he broke out for Harrisburg. In six starts for the Nats minor league club, Thompson posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 27 batters in 32.2 innings pitched. His promising spring may be a sign that he has finally "got it" and the 23-year-old may yet be a Major League talent. He will work on getting starting pitcher's innings in minor league camp.
Balester, the mustached ma, was surprisingly demoted to minor league camp after a poor spring. The 23-year-old has 22 career major league starts however, and the Nationals are still hoping he can be a Major League starting pitcher. This move, perhaps, is an indication of the change in times for Washington. Jim Boden was often known for rushing his prospects, especially in camp, to make himself look better. Balester, with 22 starts at the age of 23 is a good example of this. He'll work out his problems in an atmosphere where he can succeed.