Casto Says Good­bye, For Now

The Washington Post Sunday - - Spring Training - By Barry Svr­luga and Jorge Aran­gure Jr.

Kory Casto did noth­ing but im­press Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als coaches, ex­ec­u­tives and team­mates this spring. So yes­ter­day, when he was the club’s fi­nal cut be­fore Open­ing Day to­mor­row, Gen­eral Man­ager Jim Bow­den had a one-word de­scrip­tion of the move: “Dev­as­tat­ing.”

Casto, a ver­sa­tile left-handed hit­ter, was op­tioned to Class AAA Colum­bus, where Bow­den said he will play left field along with some first base and some third base. He has not played above Class AA in his four-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

But Casto was the vic­tim of a num­bers game. Not only did the Na­tion­als want to keep 12 pitch­ers, leav­ing five spots on the bench, but his two pri­mary com­peti­tors — out­field­ers Ryan Church and Chris Snelling — were both out of op­tions, mean­ing other teams could have claimed them had the Na­tion­als tried to send them to the mi­nors.

For the same rea­son, the Na­tion­als also op­tioned reliever Saul Rivera, who went 3-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 54 ap­pear­ances for Wash­ing­ton last sea­son, to Colum­bus. That move be­came in­evitable on Wed­nes­day, when the club pur­chased the con­tract of reliever Je­sus Colome, who could have be­come a free agent had he not made the team.

“Tough de­ci­sions,” Bow­den said. “Both of those guys be­long on this team. They won’t let us carry 27 [play­ers]. They have op­tions. Other guys don’t. They’d both be on there if other guys had op­tions.”

Bow­den and Man­ager Manny Acta said Casto took the news ex­cep­tion­ally well.

“I wasn’t go­ing to let my­self think [mak­ing the team] was go­ing to hap­pen,” Casto said. “I just kind of went along and did my busi­ness and if it didn’t hap­pen, we’d go from there. I had a lot of fun.”

Casto’s de­mo­tion also came in part be­cause cen­ter fielder Nook Logan’s strained groin is no longer ham­per­ing him. Logan played for the sec­ond straight day yes­ter­day, strik­ing out and sac­ri­fic­ing in two plate ap­pear­ances and go­ing back deep to track down a fly ball.

O’s Ros­ter Sur­prise

The Bal­ti­more Ori­oles’ 25-man Open­ing Day ros­ter, which will be an­nounced to­day, will in­clude one big sur­prise. Left-handed reliever Brian Bur­res has made the team, while reliever Todd Wil­liams cleared waivers and was out­righted to Class AAA Nor­folk, ac­cord­ing to one base­ball source. Out­fielder Jay Pay­ton, who is nurs­ing a strained left ham­string, will start the sea­son on the dis­abled list and will be el­i­gi­ble to be ac­ti­vated on April 10.

Util­ity man Fred­die Bynum won the last ros­ter spot as the Ori­oles will carry 13 pitch­ers, in­clud­ing three left-han­ders (Bur­res, John Par­rish and Jamie Walker) in the bullpen. Paul Bako and Chris Gomez will com­prise the rest of the bench.

Wil­liams had spent the past two full sea­sons with the Ori­oles and in 2005 was one of the team’s most re­li­able re­liev­ers. But Wil­liams fal­tered last sea­son (4.74 ERA) and was not ten­dered a con­tract for ar­bi­tra­tion. The Ori­oles later re­signed him to a one-year guar­an­teed $775,000 con­tract.

Wil­liams had a 2.16 ERA this spring com­pared with Bur­res’ 4.36 ERA. But Bur­res can pitch mul­ti­ple in­nings while Wil­liams is mostly a one-in­ning reliever. The rest of the bullpen will be Chris Ray, Danys Baez, Scott Wil­liamson, Chad Brad­ford and Jeremy Guthrie.

Acta Sets the Or­der

With the ros­ter set, Acta an­nounced his bat­ting or­der, with the only mi­nor sur­prise be­ing that catcher Brian Sch­nei­der will hit sixth. “He’s a lot bet­ter hit­ter than what I re­mem­ber,” Acta said.

Thus, the or­der: Felipe Lopez, Cris­tian Guz­man, Ryan Zim­mer­man, Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young, Sch­nei­der, Ryan Church and Logan. . . . Bow­den said he was sur­prised more start­ing pitch­ers weren’t re­leased by other clubs. “We were scour­ing,” he said.

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