VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals made their first round of cuts Sunday morning, reassigning infielder Matt Skole, catcher Jeff Howell and pitchers Gabriel Alfaro and Tyler Robertson to Minor League camp.
Skole was the biggest name to be sent down. After missing a year because of Tommy John surgery, Skole didn't lose a step at the plate, going 5-for-14 with a home run and five RBIs. Manager Matt Williams said Skole was sent down because he needed consistent at-bats and he wasn't going to get them with the big club. There is a strong possibility that Skole is the team's first baseman of the future, maybe as early as 2015.
"I know Matty from the [Arizona] Fall League," Williams said. "He has the ability to play both corners of the infield. He certainly has power. With what happened to him last year, he needed consistent at-bats. That's why we made the move today -- get him multiple at-bats in a game and let him get his timing back. He is going to play third and first. He will be on his way."
With so many pitchers in camp, there weren't enough innings for Alfaro and Robertson. Both players appeared in two games this spring.
"It's hard to find them innings at this point because guys are getting deeper into games," Williams said. "We want to them to continue to build their arm strength. If they are getting one inning every four days, it's not fair to them."
Howell wasn't given much of a chance, either. It didn't help that the Nationals had eight catchers in camp. They are going into the season with Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton as the Opening Day catchers.
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.