Monday, March 15, 2010

Villone released, 5 others optioned

[UPDATED AT 6:42 P.M.]

VIERA, Fla. -- Ron Villone was among six pitchers cut for Nationals camp this afternoon.

Villone, 40, was given his outright release. Collin Balester and Atahualpa Severino were optioned to Class AAA Syracuse. Aaron Thompson and Ryan Mattheus were optioned to Class AA Harrisburg. Juan Jaime was optioned to Class A Potomac.

The moves leave 45 players in big-league camp.

Villone was hoping to earn a spot as a left-handed specialist, a role he held last season while posting a 4.25 ERA in 63 games. But the veteran struggled this spring (allowing three runs, seven hits and six walks in 1 2/3 innings) and like fellow non-roster invitee Eddie Guardado was given his release.

"He's such a class act and just a wonderful guy and was a very effective pitcher for us last year," manager Jim Riggleman said. "It's tough, but I feel and I know Ron feels that he's going to pitch in the big leagues this year. Somebody will need a left-hander, and he's got such a great reputation. Somebody will call him."

With Guardado, Villone and Thompson now gone, the Nationals are almost certain to open the season with only one left-handed reliever: Sean Burnett. Doug Slaten and Jesse English do remain in camp, but each still has options and could open the season in the minors.

"We have a number of other young left-handers we think have upside and have a chance to contribute on a major league level with Slaten and English," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We think they've pitched very well out of the bullpen. Those guys have options and they're young enough to be with us long-term."

Balester came to camp with an outside shot at cracking the rotation but didn't help himself posting an 8.31 ERA in two appearances spanning 4 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old will open the season in the rotation at Syracuse; he's made 45 starts at Class AAA over the last three seasons.

Thompson, 23, turned some heads this spring, with two scoreless appearances totaling four innings. The left-hander, acquired from the Marlins last July for Nick Johnson, will open the season at Harrisburg, but club officials believe he could be ready for the big leagues before year's end.

"I see him being a guy on the horizon that I think we can count on down the road," Rizzo said. "I think there's a big upside on him, and he's an exciting young left-handed arm to have in the organization. At the Double-A level at 23 years old, he's at a good place in his career right now."


peric said...


NFA has Rafael Martin still in the Nats MLB Spring Training camp? Is he there?

Anonymous said...

With Guardado, Villone and Thompson now gone, the Nationals are almost certain to open the season with only one left-handed reliever: Sean Burnett.

Joe Beimel is still available, isn't he? I imagine Rizzo has his phone number and the music guy at Nats Park still knows how to cue up his Johnny Cash intro music, wouldn't you think?

Anonymous said...


On a different note, is parking lot 5 still under water?


Steve M. said...

Ok, so Maxwell in CF. It seems to me that Nyjer Morgan needs plenty of work to break out of his slump.

Are we sure Nyjer is ok-ok? He just doesn't seem to being swinging comfortably when I saw him down there.

Is he working with Eckstein?

Steven Biel said...

Doug Slaten is still in the house, no?

peric said...

No, Slaten should now either be in the Syracuse camp or the Accelerated minors camp ...

Chico and Olsen are their two last remaining left-handed starter/relievers.

peric said...

But Syracuse is potentially drowning in lefties ... which may be why Guardado and Villone are gone and Beimel's phone number might not be dialed.

They have Spradlin, Novoa, Severino, Slaten, Garate, Wodarczyk, and Ridgeway.

natscan reduxit said...

... I'm glad the pitching staff is shaping up, and better than previous years it looks like, but I gotta say my bleeding heart is firmly on my sleeve today.

... I have always liked Collin Balester and am disappointed for him. As for Ron Villone, I find myself feeling some empathy when guys reach the end of their useful years. It's happening fast for me so I guess that's why I feel it in others.

... all in all, Go Nats!!

Anonymous said...

Blessing in disguise for Villone. He has played on 12 different franchises in his career but this one is the worst one. Plus, if he plays for another franchise, he will break the MLB record for most franchises played on.

peric said...

Still Battista is older than Villone. By a lot. He is still there and having a horrendous spring. Just goes to prove that "set-up" men are not considered as valuable as starters. Storen as a "setup-man" for Capps the closer does not make sense in the real world.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Regarding other lefties still in camp: Doug Slaten and Jesse English do remain, and Mike Rizzo had good things to say about both (especially English). Not out of the question one of them could make the Opening Day roster, though both do still have options and seem more likely to open the season at Syracuse with a chance to be called up at some point.

peric said...

My mistake I guess Slaten, English (both lefties) and Rafael Martin the new right-handed reliever are all still in camp? Wondering about that?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Rafael Martin was never in big-league camp. He's been on the minor-league side since signing with the organization.

HabsProf said...

Mark: I'm not saying that I disagree with the move to release Villone, but I am somewhat puzzled. How do a couple of appearances during spring training (especially early in spring training) outweigh an entire season? Villone was effective last year. He wasn't an all-star, but a 4.25 ERA is not out of whack for this team.

I know his spring ERA was high (stratospheric) but it is !SPRING! for goodness sake. Did the Nats see something beyond just the numbers? Did they get the sense that he would never round into form? Ballester has never proven himself at the major league level, so it makes sense to bump him down. But Villone has proven himself, so how do only 3 or 4 spring appearances outweigh all of that?

Please explain.

peric said...

Thank you Mark. I will relay that info over to Brian on the NFA!

PDowdy83 said...

HabsProf, Villone was lights out for his first 17 or 18 innings and then absolutely TERRIBLE the second half of the season last year. So I would assume they saw that as a trend and that is why he was cut.

The Dad Report said...

Glad to hear it about Thompson, hope he makes it up soon. He was one of few bright spots not named Strasburg.

Anonymous said...

Calling Ron Villone successful is like calling Alex Cintron effective.

From June 10 through the rest of the season, Villone had a 6.54 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 1.027 OPS against. Basically the average hitter hit like Joe Mauer against Ron Villone.

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