Ross sent to Triple-A for final roster
Pitcher Joe Ross was sent to Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday because the Washington Nationals don’t need a fifth starter until the middle of April.
Sending Ross down opened an extra spot on the 25-man roster, which may be handy on Opening Day because of third baseman Anthony Rendon’s ailing calf.
Rendon fouled a ball off his left calf March 28. He has not played in a game since. Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Rendon took batting practice Saturday.
Rendon’s injury and the calendar that allowed the temporary departure of Ross have combined to land Wilmer Difo a spot on the Opening Day 25-man roster. Michael A. Taylor has also made the team as the fourth outfielder.
Difo can play multiple infield positions. He will back up Stephen Drew in the role of utility infielder. If Rendon can’t play Monday when the Nationals start the season at home with a 1:05 p.m. game, expect the left-handed Drew to play third base against Miami starter Edison Volquez. Drew is 4-for-14 in his career against Volquez.
Taylor used another hot spring to again make the team. However, his torrid numbers from last spring did not translate to the regular season. At this point, he is a defensive replacement and pinch-runner who will receive spot starts when other outfielders need a break.
Washington’s rotation for the first week opens with Stephen Strasburg on Monday, Tanner Roark on Wednesday following a day off, then Gio Gonzalez on Thursday. Max Scherzer, the 2016 National League Cy Young Award winner, will pitch the series opener Friday in Philadelphia despite pitching April 1. Scherzer has been rapidly recovering this spring from a stress fracture in the second knuckle of his right ring finger that occurred last season. The Nationals moved Gonzalez into his spot, giving Scherzer an extra day of rest and keeping Gonzalez on his regular schedule. Scherzer will face Vince Velasquez in Philadelphia.
Washington will carry two catchers: Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton. Difo joins Ryan Zimmerman (1B), Daniel Murphy (2B), Trea Turner (SS), Rendon (3B), Adam Lind (1B) and Drew among the infielders on the final 25-man roster.
Bryce Harper (RF), Adam Eaton (CF), Jayson Werth (LF), Taylor (OF) and Chris Heisey (PH/LF) make up the outfield.
The bullpen will consist of closer Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley (RHP), Sammy Solis (LHP), Koda Glover (RHP), Enny Romero (LHP), Joe Blanton (RHP) and Oliver Perez (LHP).
Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who was among the late options for the final roster spot, was reassigned to minor-league camp on Sunday.