Cintron to begin year at Triple-A
Washington leaning toward carrying three catchers on roster
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Nationals reassigned infielder Alex Cintron to Minor League camp on Thursday. He will play all four infield positions for Triple-A Syracuse.
A candidate to be a reserve on the 25-man roster, Cintron was impressive in Spring Training, hitting .316 with a home run and seven RBIs. However, the Nationals made up their minds Wednesday that Alberto Gonzalez would be their backup infielder.
"We have already spoken to Alex Cintron," Nats manager Manny Acta said. "We are very happy that he is willing to go to Triple-A. We have very good inventory in Triple-A. He is going over there and play different positions."
With Cintron out of the picture, catcher Josh Bard more than likely will be a reserve on the 25-man roster. Bard would be a pinch-hitter, while catcher Wil Nieves would get occasional starts and be a defensive replacement.
As for infielder Kory Casto, he will likely be put on waivers either Thursday or Friday. He will know by Saturday if he will go to Triple-A Syracuse or be picked up by another club. Casto, who is out of options, didn't open any eyes this spring, hitting .152 with three RBIs in 27 games.
There is one thing left for Acta to decide in terms of the position players: Who will be his starting right fielder on Opening Day? The race is between Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns. Two sources indicated recently that Acta is leaning toward Kearns because he has made the necessary adjustments to his swing. Kearns is hitting .286 with a team-leading four home runs and nine RBIs this spring. Dukes, on the other hand, has 21 strikeouts in 49 at-bats.
After Thursday's game, Acta had nothing but praise for outfielder Roger Bernadina. The skipper liked the fact that Bernadina shortened his swing and improved at the plate. Acta went so far as to say that Bernadina would be on the Opening Day roster if the team wasn't loaded with outfielders.
"Bernadina has been the biggest surprise to me, because I really had doubts that he was going to shorten up that swing," Acta said. "He's a guy we will not be afraid to put him out there. I don't think Bernadina will hurt anybody at the big league level right now. He really, really impressed me this spring. What he brings defensively and with his speed, he is ready to contribute at the Major League level."
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is one guy who can't wait for Spring Training to come to an end. He hinted that the exhibition season is too long. He voiced his displeasure after hitting two home runs against the Phillies in Thursday's 12-10 victory.
"Right now, you kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, so it's a little easier to show up and be ready," Zimmerman said. "The last week, week and a half has been tough to get excited about."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.