The Nationals announced Wednesday they released infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen. They also reassigned outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to minor-league camp.
The Nationals' bench struggled when pressed into action a season ago, as the group only mustered a combined .143 batting average with 18 RBI. With stars Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Anthony Rendon likely to open the year on the disabled list, the Nationals know bench production will be key early on in the season. The Nationals bring back some guys that came off the bench a year go, including Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen and Jose Lobaton. Their numbers will need to improve for the Nationals to sustain success offensively, especially when dealing with injuries. One possibility to take a bench spot is Tony Gwynn Jr., who's hitting .375 with two RBI this spring. "You want to set a tone for the team, especially when you are missing cogs like Rendon, Werth and Span," Gwynn said via MLB.com. "You have to be able to fill those voids. There are reasons they are paid the top money they are paid. They are not easy cogs to replace. You try to piece it together as a team and hope you can keep the ship afloat until those guys get back."
Tony Gwynn Jr. teammed up with Triple-A hitting coach Joe Dillon and Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu to tweak his swing, which could result in an Opening Day roster spot, according to the Washington Post. Gwynn's body wasn't in sync when he swung, and he fixed it by using his backside to generate more power in his swing. "The swing works from the ground up," Gwynn said. "Having my lower half really incorporated into my swing and getting through baseballs better has helped. That's why I've been able to get a lot of hits where I don't necessarily square it up where my hip beats me a little bit or something but they're on a line and I'm able to get my backside through things which I don't think I've been doing for a while."
Nationals outfielder Tony Gwynn may have fallen into a chance to making the team's final roster, reports MLB.com. Veteran outfielder Denard Span is expected to be out past opening day, leaving an open spot in the Nationals' outfield. For Gywnn, it's just another chance to show what he can do. "I'm making some strides," Gwynn said. "We have some coaches who are familiar with my swing. I played for Joe Dillon when I was a young guy in 2007 and '08 [for the Brewers]. He is familiar with what I'm doing. Schu has been great. Having those guys tag team accelerated the process as far as getting where I need to be." Gwynn said his struggles in 2014 were in part because of his father, Tony Gwynn, battling with salivary cancer. "I was dealing with that, plus getting sporadic at-bats and things of that nature makes it more difficult. Baseball is tough enough by itself," Gwynn said. "When you have other things playing in different directions, it makes it hard."
The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal, the team announced. Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season.