Travis Lee released by Nats
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Travis Lee asked for and was granted his unconditional release by the Washington Nationals on Sunday, making Dmitri Young the starting first baseman as the club made progress on settling its 25-man roster.
The Nationals made several moves -- including sending right-hander Tim Redding outright to Triple-A Columbus, which solidifies Jerome Williams' spot in the rotation -- and began to prepare for starting the season without Nook Logan in center field.
"It's going to be at least two weeks," before Logan can return after straining his right groin Saturday, manager Manny Acta said.
Said general manager Jim Bowden: "The one thing we don't want to do is bring him back too early and have him pull it and be out a long time."
Ryan Church started in center on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves, while Chris Snelling took Church's spot in left. Logan's injury also makes it pretty certain that Kory Casto, who's never been above Double-A, will make the team.
"We're leaning more toward finding out what Casto can really do up here," Acta said.
Casto would get time in the outfield, but Bowden said he also could see time as a backup at first base, where Young and utility player Robert Fick are the only other options now.
Bowden said Lee "explained to me that it was a difficult decision for him, but that he did not have the passion to play the game anymore. He said he felt that way last year and was hoping it could be rekindled this year."
Lee was hitting .267 as he competed initially with prospect Larry Broadway and then with Young for the starting job at first base while Nick Johnson recovers from a broken leg.
Lee has a .997 career fielding percentage at first base, never making more than six errors in a season.
Redding now must decide whether to accept his minor league assignment or become a free agent.
"He's just got to go down there and get his act together and hopefully get a shot later on," said Acta, who managed Redding in the minors in the Houston Astros' organization.
Also Sunday, right-hander Joel Hanrahan was optioned to Columbus, another demotion that ties in with Williams' earning a rotation spot, alongside John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Matt Chico (who allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Braves on Sunday).
"I think it's safe to say that Jerome Williams is in the rotation right now," Acta said.
The other member probably would be Jason Simontacchi, but he's sidelined by a groin injury. The right-hander, who last pitched in the majors in 2004, was originally slated to start Sunday against Atlanta.
"He's not going to start the season with us. He's not going to be able to do it," Acta said.
In other moves, right-hander Jermaine Van Buren and left-hander Billy Traber cleared waivers and were assigned outright to Columbus, freeing up two spots on the 40-man roster. Infielders D'Angelo Jimenez and Joe Thurston, catcher Juan Brito and left-hander Mike Bacsik were reassigned to minor league camp.
Jimenez was in competition for a reserve infielder role with Josh Wilson, who will now make the team.
"He played great, hitting-wise and fielding-wise," Jimenez said. "I'm not hurt."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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