MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats release Frandsen, send Gwynn down

Espinosa likely the utility infielder; pitcher Martin, third baseman Stewart also reassigned

Nats release Frandsen, send Gwynn down

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals have granted infielder Kevin Frandsen his unconditional release and reassigned outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., pitcher Rafael Martin and third baseman Ian Stewart to Minor League camp.

Frandsen was manager Matt Williams' go-to guy off the bench last year and was productive, hitting .259 with a home run and 17 RBIs. However, he was 3-for-35 this spring, but Williams said stats had nothing to do with the move.

With Frandsen gone, it likely means that Danny Espinosa will be the backup infielder for Washington. Espinosa is considered a Gold Glove-caliber defender at second base and shortstop.

"It's hard," Williams said. "[Frandsen] was a big part of the success while he was here. The willingness to play everywhere on the diamond, the attitude that he has playing the game is special. From a personal perspective, that's difficult. I hope for his sake, he gets a chance to land with somebody and continue his career. Any team would be lucky to have him."

Gwynn had a productive spring for Washington, but the acquisitions of outfielders Matt den Dekker and Reed Johnson made Gwynn expendable. Williams told him to be ready for when the Nationals need an outfielder. Gwynn most likely will start the season with Triple-A Syracuse.

"Tony was a late addition to camp. I see Tony helping us at some point this year," Williams said. "He has been a productive player for a long time. He understands the process of it. He'll be ready if that call is made. He is a good player. He showed us a lot of things."

Martin allowed a run in 6 2/3 innings this spring. He joined the Nationals as a free agent in 2010 after playing for Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League. Williams didn't rule out Martin making his Major League debut later in the season.

"He gets people out," Williams said. "He changes speeds. He throws it where he wants it to. He is able to control both sides of the plate with his slider. He has a surprising fastball, too. He throws strikes, works quickly and fields his position. He does anything he wants."

Stewart, who was a candidate for the third-base job after Anthony Rendon went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee, had a .273 batting average with three home runs and four RBIs.

The Nationals now have to decide who they want to keep between Mike Carp and Clint Robinson for the final bench spot. Both are left-handed hitters. Between the two, Robinson is having a better spring, going 16-for-49 (.327) with two home runs and eight RBIs.

"Clint has had a great spring. [His swing is] short and repeatable," Williams said.

Carp is batting .189 (7-for-37) with two RBIs, but he has experience in the postseason. He was on the Red Sox's World Series championship team in 2013.

"Mike has the track record and has done it," Williams said. "So that's why [Robinson and Carp] are still here and playing for us. We are going to give them an opportunity the last couple of games."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.