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03/12/12 6:39 PM ET

Brown, Rendon among Nats' first camp cuts

Washington skipper Johnson impressed most by pair

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals made their first round of cuts Monday afternoon. They optioned left-hander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon to Class A Potomac, and infielder Carlos Rivero to Triple-A Syracuse.

The Nationals also reassigned right-handers Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Rafael Martin, catcher Sandy Leon, infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir and outfielders Corey Brown and Xavier Paul to Minor League camp.

Of all the players that were sent down, manager Davey Johnson was impressed with Brown. Even outfielder Jayson Werth was sad to see Brown leave the Major League team, according to Johnson.

"That's how much [Brown] impressed not only me and the staff, but his teammates," Johnson said. "That's the tough part of spring."

After a lost season in 2011 because of injuries, Brown came to camp on a mission to prove to the organization that it made the right decision when it acquired him and reliever Henry Rodriguez from the Athletics for outfielder Josh Willingham during the winter of 2010.

Brown ended up going 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer and three RBIs, while playing great defense, like he did against the Cardinals on Monday. While playing left field in the third inning, Brown made a diving catch off the bat of Matt Holliday and then threw a strike to first baseman Adam LaRoche to double off Yadier Molina.

"This spring, he has been one of the most impressive players," Johnson said about Brown. "I knew I was going to send him out. I wanted to play him nine innings today. He certainly had a great ballgame. [Third-base coach] Bo Porter ... said, 'Do we have to send him out? Do we have to? Let's keep him. That would leave us with only six [outfielders].' I said, 'I would love to, but you want him to go down there and get a lot of at-bats and keep what he has going, carrying it into the year.

"Like I told Corey Brown, if he keeps doing things like that ... maybe we don't have to look for a center fielder."

Brown said he understood that last year's lost season hurt him from making this year's team. He is expected to start the season with Triple-A Syracuse.

"My main thing was wanting to be healthy, because I got hurt early last year in the spring," Brown said. "Davey and everyone else haven't seen me perform. I just wanted to come out here and show them what I have. Obviously, it's unfortunate that I've been sent down, but I understand. I haven't proven much."

Johnson was also impressed with Rendon, Washington's first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Rendon was 3-for-12 (.231) with an RBI and four runs scored, which ranked second on the team this spring. Johnson told Rendon that he "almost lived up to your press clippings for a guy from Rice."

Rendon will play most of the season at third and see some action at short, according to Johnson.

"He was pretty impressive. I said, 'Just go play,'" Johnson said about Rendon. "It won't take him long to be back here. He has a lot of talent. ... He is fun to watch. He has a real live bat. He has good hands, a good arm and is a complete player, smart."

Purke, who was the team's third-round pick in the 2011 Draft, said he was grateful for the experience and learned a lot from the coaching staff and veteran players. Purke had a 2.70 ERA during the exhibition season.

"It was great," Purke said. "I enjoyed every second of it. I was glad to be around these guys that we have around here. This is a special squad -- top to bottom. I learned a lot of things, I will take those with me and keep moving on. ... I learned that baseball is baseball. No matter what. No matter who you are playing or where you are at. They just want me to go out there, just pitch like I have, be comfortable, relax and get after it like I know that I can."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.