Thursday, March 17, 2011, 1:29 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
The Washington Nationals optioned three players out of big-league camp Thursday, sending first baseman Chris Marrero, right-hander Cole Kimball and outfielder Corey Brown to Class AAA Syracuse. They also re-assigned catcher Derek Norris to Class AA Harrisburg.
None of the four was likely to make the Opening Day roster, but Marrero and Kimball each impressed team officials this spring and positioned themselves to earn a promotion sometime this season.
Marrero, one of the Nationals' top prospects since he was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft, hit .381 with two doubles and three RBI in 12 Grapefruit League games. More importantly, he showed significant improvement in the field, the aspect of his game considered most suspect in the past.
Kimball, a hard-throwing reliever, wowed observers from his first bullpen session and then continued to impress in exhibition play. The 25-year-old allowed just one run in eight innings, striking out eight in the process.
Brown, acquired along with pitcher Henry Rodriguez from the Athletics in this winter's Josh Willingham trade, never got much of a chance to state his case this spring after spraining his ankle sliding into the plate on March 1. The 25-year-old outfielder hadn't returned to play since suffering the injury.
Norris, another top prospect in the organization, will open the season at Harrisburg but could continue to move quickly up the ladder. The 22-year-old catcher went 3-for-15 in 11 games this spring.
Thursday's moves leave the Nationals with 38 players in big-league camp two weeks shy of Opening Day.
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.