VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals reassigned pitchers Victor Garate, Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta and Ryan Speier, catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Jerry Owens to Minor League camp on Thursday.
The team also gave left-handers Shawn Estes and Eddie Guardado their unconditional releases. The Nationals currently have 53 players in their big league camp.
"It's that time where you get the roster to a more manageable number, especially with the pitching," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We are going to try to stretch the starters out a little bit. A couple of clubs have already done it. We just needed to get a manageable number."
Of the players sent to Minor League camp, Norris, 21, is the player with the most upside. He is considered Washington's catcher of the future. He took the news in stride and said he realized that he must improve his defense behind the plate.
Norris played in six games this spring and was hitless in four at-bats. His best time, he said, was learning from catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Jamie Burke.
"I learned a lot, especially on the defense side," Norris said. "There were a lot of veteran guys around here who taught me a lot. I'm looking forward to taking what they showed me toward the season and see how it pans out behind the plate compared to last year. They gave me a lot of tips and pointers for my game. I think it will be a tremendous complement for my game behind the plate."
Estes and Guardado were signed to Minor League deals this winter to provide leadership for the young pitching staff, but they were hit hard during the exhibition season. Estes gave up two runs in one inning, while Guardado surrendered seven runs -- four earned -- in two innings.
Estes said he was not sure what he is going to do -- keep pitching or retire. He plans to talk to his wife and his agent before making a final decision.
When reached by phone Thursday night, Guardado said he was surprised he was let go after pitching in just two games, but understood the business side of baseball.
"I thanked the organization for the opportunity," he said.
Guardado said he would like to continue to pitch in the big leagues, but plans to talk it over with his wife before making a final decision.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.