Nationals Select Four Players


The Nationals have announced their Opening Day roster, revealing within that they’ve selected the contracts of four non-roster invitees to spring training: righty Chad Kuhl, lefty Anthony Banda, infielder Michael Chavis and right-hander Hobie Harris. In order to make room on the roster, the Nats placed right-handers Cade Cavalli, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Rainey and Victor Arano on the 60-day injured list. Infielder Carter Kieboom and catcher Israel Pineda were placed on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder impingement and fractured finger, respectively.

Kuhl was widely expected to claim a spot in the rotation following the unfortunate news that Cavalli, Washington’s top pitching prospect, would miss the upcoming season due to Tommy John surgery. The veteran Kuhl, 30, tossed 17 2/3 innings this spring, allowing 10 runs on 18 hits and seven walks with 15 strikeouts along the way.

Kuhl spent the 2022 season in Colorado, getting out to a strong three-month start that he capped off with a shutout of the Dodgers at Coors  Field. That gem dropped his ERA to 3.49, but Kuhl was clobbered for 29 runs in 25 2/3 innings over his next six starts before a hip strain sent him to the injured list. He was hit hard upon returning three weeks later, and the Rox put him back on the injured list with what proved to be a season-ending triceps strain. Clearly not pitching at 100% down the stretch, Kuhl was shelled for 57 runs in his final 59 2/3 innings, ballooning his ERA to 5.72. Prior to that season, he tossed 439 2/3 innings over several seasons in Pittsburgh, logging a much more respectable 4.44 ERA.

Banda, 29, once ranked as one of the sport’s top pitching prospects but hasn’t yet established himself as a viable big leaguer in parts of six MLB campaigns. He’s had some brief success with the 2018 Rays and 2021 Pirates, but overall the journeyman southpaw carries a 5.64 ERA in 111 2/3 Major League innings. He yielded seven runs on seven hits and five walks in 11 spring innings. Despite that unsightly 5.64 ERA, Banda likely impressed the Nats by striking out 14 of 46 batters (30.4%). He’ll open the season as the lone lefty in manager Dave Martinez’s bullpen.

The 27-year-old Chavis was the Red Sox’ first-round pick in 2014 and, like Banda, once ranked among the game’s top 100 farmhands. He had an encouraging rookie season, batting .254/.322/.444 with 18 home runs in just 382 plate appearances, but in 708 MLB plate appearances since that time he’s mustered only a .229/.263/.388 output with a concerning 30.8% strikeout rate. He’s been primarily a first baseman, but Chavis has experience at second base, third base and in the outfield corners. He’ll be a righty bat off Martinez’s bench.

Harris’ selection to the roster was announced earlier in the week by his agent, Matt Gaeta. It caps an eight-year minor league grind for the former Yankees 31st-rounder, who held opponents to one run on three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 10 innings this spring. Harris spent the 2022 season with the Brewers’ Triple-A club, where he pitched to a 2.04 ERA with a 27% strikeout rate. He’s likely ticketed for a middle-relief role early in the year.

None of the 60-day IL placements come as a major surprise. Cavalli’s Tommy John surgery was announced earlier in camp, as was Strasburg’s setback in his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery. A timetable for the 2019 World Series MVP remains unclear. Rainey had Tommy John surgery last August, so he was never going to be an option until late in the season, at best. Arano is the only mild surprise of the bunch, but the Nats announced midway through the month that he was dealing with a shoulder impingement and would be shut down for at least 10 days. The Nats are now classifying the injury as a strain, and no timetable for his return has been provided.

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