JUPITER, Fla. — Even though they’re already committed to carrying both Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins on their Opening Day roster, the Nationals still are thinking about carrying a third left-hander in their bullpen to begin the season.
The decision to move Detwiler out of the rotation and into the bullpen last week seemed to indicate the Nationals had their left-handed contingent all set for Opening Day.
But with three days left in camp, five pitchers remain in the mix for the final spot in the bullpen, and two of them are lefties: Xavier Cedeno and Michael Gonzalez, who join right-handers Ryan Mattheus, Aaron Barrett and Tanner Roark (who is also competing for the No. 5 starter’s job).
Mattheus missed the first month of camp with a chest injury, and though he’s now healthy, he likely doesn’t have enough time left to build up his arm and make the roster. Barrett, meanwhile, has never pitched above Class AA, though he sports a 0.00 ERA this spring and has turned heads throughout the organization.
Cedeno or Gonzalez, though, would offer a different look. And as manager Matt Williams explained, the Nationals’ early-season schedule might prompt the club to keep another lefty on the roster.
“We know who we’re facing the first 15 games of the season,” Williams said. “It’s all within the division, and certainly looking at those teams, the Braves are heavy left-handed, the Mets are heavy left-handed. So I think the decision comes down to more of a situational-type lefty, potentially as a third lefty, as opposed to making it two just because we don’t want to push Det.”
The Nationals can make this decision without fear of losing most of the contenders. Mattheus, Roark, Barrett and Cedeno all have options and can be demoted without being exposed to other clubs. Gonzalez, who signed a minor-league deal after camp opened, may opt out of his contract on Thursday if he’s not added to the big-league roster.
“There’s a lot of factors in there,” Williams said. “But that’s why those guys are still here. We’re contemplating all those potentials. … Those are just all the considerations we go through in our talks every day. We just don’t know. Do we feel comfortable with two (lefties) or do we feel more comfortable with three? And we continue to evaluate that.”