MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Difo among first Nats players cut

Infielder optioned to Triple-A to work on defense

Difo among first Nats players cut

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals made their first round of cuts Thursday, optioning infielder Wilmer Difo and pitchers Matt Grace and Taylor Jordan to Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats also reassigned pitchers Paolo Espino and Taylor Hill and catchers Raudy Read and Brian Jeroloman to Minor League camp.

For manager Dusty Baker, the cuts were difficult to make. While he didn't name names, Baker said there were some players who were surprised they were let go early.

"Some of the guys [who were cut] need some work to get ready for their own seasons," Baker said. "… It was going to get increasingly difficult, especially when the regulars are going to expand their innings."

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Of the players cut, Baker saw a lot of Difo, who went 3-for 10 with three errors. The skipper liked his game, but wants him to work on his craft at second base and hit a lot of balls on the ground.

"He needs to stay out of the air. He gets like all of us -- he is enamored with the home run trot," Baker said. "He has to work a little more at second base. [Bench coach] Chris Speier told him that. After playing shortstop, second base is like a day off and you tend to get lazy a little bit. We want him to be ready if we need to call him back to the big leagues. We want him to bust his butt. I have my eye on him, as well as the organization has an eye on him."

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.