Monday, March 28, 2011, 3:10 p.m.
Updated at 6:08 p.m.
NATS PAGE NATS VIDEO NATSINSIDER.COM
By Mark Zuckerman
VIERA, Fla. -- The Washington Nationals made a flurry of roster moves Monday afternoon, leaving themselves with a finalized, 25-man roster three days before their season opener.
Left-hander Ross Detwiler, right-hander Collin Balester and outfielder Roger Bernadina were all optioned to Class AAA Syracuse, while infielder Brian Bixler was re-assigned to minor-league camp.
Infielder Alberto Gonzalez was traded to the San Diego Padres for minor-league pitcher Erik Davis and cash.
Injured right-handers Chien-Ming Wang and Elvin Ramirez, meanwhile, were placed on the 60-day disabled list, with right-hander Henry Rodriguez placed on the 15-day DL.
That means veterans Matt Stairs, Laynce Nix and Alex Cora have made the club as reserves, with Rule 5 draftee Brian Broderick making the team as a reliever.
The final piece to the puzzle came late Monday afternoon when general manager Mike Rizzo finalized the Gonzalez trade with the Padres. Rizzo had been fielding calls from several clubs interested in acquiring the infielder, who was hitting .377 this spring but became expendable. Cora, a 35-year-old non-roster invitee with 13 years of big-league experience, is hitting .359 and has impressed team officials with his leadership qualities.
The decision to keep Stairs and Nix over Bernadina was a tough one for the Nationals, who ultimately went with experience over potential. Stairs, 43, is baseball's all-time leader in pinch-hit home runs, while Nix has 483 games of big-league experience.
Bernadina, meanwhile, has shown flashes of his ability both at the plate and in the outfield, but has yet to show he can play at a consistently high level. The fact he still had a minor-league option and could be sent to Syracuse without risk of being lost also played into the ultimate decision.
Manager Jim Riggleman added the organization would prefer Bernadina (who hit .246 with 11 homers in 134 games last season) play on a daily basis at Class AAA than get sporadic at-bats as a big-league bench player.
"That probably has much to do with it as anything," the manager said. "We still think that Roger's got a chance to be a 450-to-550 at-bat guy. So rather than start off the season with him getting four or five at-bats a week, we're going to send him down there and let him play. And if the situation comes where we call on him like we did last year, it will be having played every day."
The options game definitely came into play in the Nationals bullpen, with Balester sent to Syracuse despite a 1.59 ERA this spring because the club risked offering Rule 5 draftee Broderick back to the St. Louis Cardinals had he not made the Opening Day roster.
"He pitched himself onto the ballclub. We're not letting him make the ballclub right now, because we've got some other situations where we would lose some people," Riggleman said of Balester. "But we feel confident that at some point we'll have to call on Bally and he'll be ready to help us."
Broderick was perhaps the biggest surprise of the spring, a 24-year-old sinkerball starter who spent last season at the Cardinals' Double-A affiliate, then was selected by the Nationals in the second round of the Rule 5 draft and managed to make the club as a reliever.
The right-hander, though, practically forced the Nationals to find room for him after allowing just one earned run in his first 14 23 innings this spring.
"He really opened a lot of eyes here," Riggleman said.
An emotional Broderick immediately called his girlfriend and mother to tell them the good news.
"I was pretty much speechless," he said. "I mean, I pretty much still am. I'm shaking still. Just to know that all the hard work got done and everything is paying off ... I'm a big-leaguer now."
The Gonzalez trade netted Davis, a 24-year-old right-hander who went 14-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 27 combined starts last season among the Padres' Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. He was San Diego's 13th-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Stanford, where he was a teammate of Nationals reliever Drew Storen.
Thus, the Nationals' Opening Day roster will be:
ROTATION: Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Tom Gorzelanny.
BULLPEN: Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, Doug Slaten, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick.
CATCHERS: Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos.
INFIELDERS: Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Alex Cora.
OUTFIELDERS: Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston, Matt Stairs, Laynce Nix.
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MarkZuckerman.