Notes: Nats make roster changes

Notes: Nationals continue to tinker with roster

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals trimmed their roster to 38 players and added to two others to their 40-man roster on Wednesday night.

Washington purchased the contracts of infielders Ronnie Belliard and Robert Fick from Triple-A Columbus, while it optioned left-hander Billy Traber to Columbus, outrighted outfielder Michael Restovich and infielder Bernie Castro to Columbus and reassigned right-hander Josh Hall to Minor League camp.

Adding Fick and Belliard to the Major League roster didn't come as a surprise. They both signed Minor League contracts, but manager Manny Acta expected them to be on the 25-man roster and part of the bench. Fick will make $850,000, while Belliard will make $750,000.

"I pretty much told you when we acquired Belliard that he was on the team. It was just a matter of getting a spot for him," Acta said. "Fick pretty much showed he can play three positions and be a left-handed hitter off the bench. It was a lock."

As far as Traber and Hall goes, they pitched well during the exhibition season, however, the Nationals didn't have room for them on the roster. Washington considers Traber to be a reliever and the Nats told him that they are set with left-handers Micah Bowie and Ray King out of the bullpen.

"They have two pretty good pitchers to fill the role. They gave me [a fair shot]," Traber said.

Hall was a reliever during the exhibition season. He will now be in the rotation in the Minor Leagues.

Restovich and Castro have not decided if they will accept Minor League spots. The Nationals were looking for Restovich to be a power hitter off the bench, but he didn't hit a home run in 28 at-bats.

With Belliard and Fick on the team, Castro didn't have a shot to make the team. Plus, Castro had problems turning the double play.

Injury report: Right-hander Jason Simontacchi, a virtual lock to make the rotation, said that his right groin is getting better. He felt tightness in that area while throwing his final pitch against the Cardinals last Wednesday and had to miss a turn.

The Nationals still don't know when Simontacchi will be able to pitch. He is supposed to throw a bullpen session on Friday and pitch on Sunday against the Braves. If Simontacchi doesn't pitch, Acta hinted that he may not start the season on time.

"If I need to stay [in Florida] to be healthy, that's something I have to do," Simontacchi said.

If Simontacchi is not ready for Opening Day, that would give Jerome Williams, Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan a chance to crack the rotation.

"Remember Wally Pipp? There's nothing guaranteed here other than John Patterson and perhaps Shawn Hill," Acta said. "If you are not here and the guys are pitching good, what are you going to do?"

Brian Schneider said that his sore left hamstring is getting better. He was able to hit in the cage and stretch with players on Tuesday afternoon. Schneider hopes to play in a game in a couple of days.

On the mound: Redding started against the Braves on Wednesday and gave up three runs on six hits in three innings. All three runs were scored in the first inning, highlighted by a two-run homer by Andruw Jones. Time is running out for Redding, as he has given up 11 runs in 8 2/3 innings.

"Unfortunately, the first inning was a big disaster," Redding said. "The positives was that I was able to throw my breaking ball for strikes a lot, which was good."

Acta didn't think Redding established himself on the mound, even though he held the Braves scoreless in the second and third innings.

"With the injury of Jason, we have to go longer with the competition, but Redding didn't help himself," Acta said.

Did you know? The Nationals have won three consecutive games and four out of their last five.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to Kissimmee, Fla., to play the Astros on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Williams will face Houston left-hander Nate Robertson.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.