The Washington Nationals made their first round of cuts today, giving veteran pitchers Shawn Estes and Eddie Guardado their outright releases while demoting six players to minor league camp. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore Reported:
"The Nationals reduced their roster to 53 players, and by letting go six pitchers they will be able to more closely examine the pitchers contending for the final spots in the bullpen and the starting rotation.
"It's that time where you got to start getting the numbers down to a more manageable number, especially the pitching," Manager Jim Riggleman said."
Guardado's release will probably mean the end to a 17-year career where he posted a 4.32 ERA and saved 187 games. The lefty, nicknamed 'Everyday Eddie,' saved 40 games in back to back seasons 2002-2003. Estes has pitched 14 seasons in the Major Leagues posting a 101-93 record with a 4.71 ERA. Estes best year came in 1997 when the lefty went 19-5 with a 3.18 ERA.
Among the minor leaguers sent down were pitchers Victor Garate, Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta and Ryan Speir, and position players Derek Norris and Jerry Owens.
While the Shawn Estes release is not a surprise, the Guardado release caught me off gaurd. I was under the impression that they had brought in Everyday Eddie to be a bullpen mentor to the young Nationals relief pitchers. Guardado had earned a strong reputation over the last several years as being a great mentor to young closers like Ryan Franklin and J.J. Putz. Guardado had struggled however, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in two outings this spring. Regardless, one would have thought he would have at least been sent to Syracuse to be a mentor for Drew Storen.
Derek Norris was the most notable demotion among the minor leaguers. Norris is arguably the Nationals top hitting prospect and the club wants him to focus on his defensive strength behind the plate. His demotion represents a big change from the ways of Jim Bowden, who was known for bringing up his prospects for looks in spring training regardless of their readiness. Bowden of course did this to make himself look better.
Norris will look to shoot through the minors this year and put himself in position to crack the majors in camp next season.