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Original Nat Carroll returns on minor-league deal

Jan 9, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

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Updated at 3:15 p.m.

Jamey Carroll, a member of the original 2005 Nationals, is coming back to Washington nine years later.

Carroll is signing a minor-league contract with the Nationals, with a good chance of making the Opening Day roster, sources confirmed Thursday afternoon. The club also signed veteran infielder Mike Fontenot to a minor-league deal.

The veteran infielder, who turns 40 next month, gets an invitation to big-league camp, where he’ll compete with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters for a spot on the Nationals’ bench. Given his lengthy track record as a productive reserve — he owns a .339 batting average in 146 career plate appearances as a pinch-hitter — Carroll could prove more of a sure thing than Espinosa, who has been a starter throughout his career and spent most of 2013 at Class AAA Syracuse after hitting .158 in D.C.

Originally a 14th-round pick of the Expos in the 1996 draft, Carroll was a late bloomer and didn’t make his major-league debut until Sept. 2002. He spent the next two seasons as a key bench player for Montreal, then relocated with the franchise to Washington in 2005.

One of only two players from the Nationals’ inaugural Opening Day roster still actively playing — reliever Luis Ayala is the other — Carroll became a clubhouse and fan favorite during his one season in D.C. when he hit .251 in 113 games and regularly started at second base with veteran Jose Vidro injured.

But shortly before the start of spring training in 2006, then-general manager Jim Bowden sold Carroll to the Rockies for $300,000 in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for backup catcher/pinch-hitter Matt LeCroy. LeCroy, who wound up appearing in only 39 games for the Nationals and retired one year later, is now bullpen coach on new manager Matt Williams’ staff.

Carroll played for five different clubs over the last eight seasons: the Rockies, Indians, Dodgers, Twins and Royals. He hit .211 in 73 games last season split between Minnesota and Kansas City.

In a career that spans 12 seasons and includes 1,276 big-league games, Carroll owns a .272 batting average and .349 on-base percentage.

Fontenot, meanwhile, also joins the Nationals on a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp. The 33-year-old is a career .265 hitter with a .332 on-base percentage in 582 games with the Cubs, Giants and Phillies.

Fontenot spent 2013 with the Rays’ Class AAA affiliate in Durham, where he hit .264 with a .335 on-base percentage in 120 games.

  1. DaveB - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Apparently we also signed Mike Fontenot. Looks like they also aren’t 100% convinced that Danny is the answer for utility infielder … should be an interesting competition.

  2. natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    I always liked Jamey. Welcome back. :-)

    • janebeard - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      You were the second person I was most happy for, after myself. And, well, Jamey. Yay!

    • NatsNut - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I was so happy for you when I saw this, 1a!

      • natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        aww, thanks, buddies.

        I remember fondly how natsfan1b briefed me on proper fan conduct before we attended Carroll’s first game at RFK as a Rockie.

        1b: “Okay, here’s the thing. You can do one polite golf-clap the first time he’s introduced, but no cheering for him during the game.”

        me: “Well, but I can make a ‘Welcome back, Jamey’ sign, right?”

        1b: “No – no Jamey signs! You can do a ‘Go, NATS’ sign, though.”

        me: “(sigh) Okay.”

        (So, now I can say it. Welcome back, Jamey! Okay, I’m good.)

  3. natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Sooo, Jamey’s still in baseball but JimBo, not so much. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  4. scnatsfan - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    At least Espi may be able to sublet the DC apartment he got when Lombo was traded to Jamey

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    One thought is they signed a superannuated Lombardozzi. Another is that Espinosa needs to bring his A+ game to camp, not his B+ game. Third, Rizzo already has a wink and nod from another GM if Espinosa doesn’t throw up all over himself in ST.

  6. Sonny G 10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I liked Jamey Carroll, but I’m not sure there is anything left in his tank.

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    I am underwhelmed. But I do, indeed, understand the need for such ‘just in case’ signings.

    Although I doubt there’s any real link, I noticed the other day on MLBTR that the Rangers are interested in re-signing Jeff Baker. I would still like to see the Nats acquire one more solid pinch hitter off the bench. Mr. Carroll would seem to be more the solid defensive replacement.

  8. veejh - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    Welcome back? Great, now we have another middle infielder vying for a spot that can’t hit.

  9. NatsLady - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    Wow, look at this. So lucky we got Fister when we did. Wishing the best for Verlander, though.

    http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/sports/Detroit-Tigers-ace-Justin-Verlander-undergoes-off-season-surgery

  10. veejh - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Not sure if any of you saw this……

    http://msn.foxsports.com/buzzer/story/adam-laroche-poses-with-a-huge-mountain-lion-010814

    I like to think the lion represents the Braves this season.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      Proud, beautiful animal. Now dead. Because someone wanted to prove…what? Their manhood?

      • veejh - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        meh…you wouldn’t be that upset if it ate your kids.

      • shawndc04 - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:38 PM

        @Eugene in Oregon

        Yep. I feel exactly the same way. No cheers from me for LaRoche from here on out.

      • Jw - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        Explains why LaRoche won’t be at NatsFest. The team wants to avoid PETA protesters.

      • veejh - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        @shawn

        Because he’s a hunter? Good lord.

      • shawndc04 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        @veejh

        I’m not a hunter, but I understand hunting for food. LaRoche is just killing animals gratuitously, and I have no respect for him or for that.

      • naterialguy - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        +1

    • ehay2k - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:32 AM

      Impressive that he did it with a bow. And people should understand that mountain lion hunting is heavily regulated. This is about sensible population control, not wiping out animals just for trophies.

      If you really want to protect wild animals, take on the sprawl that is taking their habitat from them and forcing them to compete with humans.

  11. tcostant - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    crikett sound

  12. Section 222 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Jamey Carroll is probably more serious competition for Danny than Burris, Rhymes, or Walters. Unfortunately, at this stage he’s not much more of a hitter. He strikes out about half as much as Espi though.

    I’ll bet he’s a great clubhouse guy…

  13. nats106 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Agreed that Carroll Is probably great in the clubhouse. In general, just a class act who appreciates the opportunity to play a game for a living. Liking all these moves.

    If drinking Mountain Lion blood (or Tiger blood for that matter) gives us 30 HR and 100 RBI from LaRoche, PETA be damned.

  14. David Proctor - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    Carroll is what he is. He can pinch hit well. He plays better defense than Lombo, even at 40. I’m not entirely sold he makes it out of spring training, but it’s a decent enough depth signing for if Espinosa is awful again.

  15. David Proctor - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Bryce Harper on Hot Stove today: http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=31294835

    • Section 222 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      Awesome. Thanks for the link DP. Sounds like this “Bryce is going to be big as a house” stuff is overblown.

      Last I checked, the Boston Red Sox post had been up for 1.5 hours and there wasn’t a single comment. Let’s keep it that way!

  16. sjm308 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    I liked Carroll when he was here and he actually had a decent career except for a huge drop-off last year. My question is this: At 40, if he does not beat out Espinosa, Burris, Walters etc. would he actually head to Syracuse? I seriously doubt that a guy with 12 big league seasons needs to start riding buses in upstate New York in April.
    Soooo, he has either gotten a pretty good guarantee that he will have a spot when we head north or he thinks this is the best place for him to end his career. I like that Espinosa won’t just be given that back up spot but I still hold out hope that he will figure things out and be a productive part of our run back to the top of the NL East.

    Go Nats!! and add me to the list that thought of Natsfan1a when this signing was announced.

    One last thing, I hope natsfan1a was not drinking coffee or anything when someone asked me to copy/paste or whatever about 5 or 6 posts ago. My computer skills are not what one would call even below average.

  17. natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    I missed that one, sjm. I was probably downstairs drinking coffee. :-)

    On Jamey, seeing as how he started out as with the Expos (if memory serves), might be nice for him to finish up with the Nationals organization.

    “One last thing, I hope natsfan1a was not drinking coffee or anything when someone asked me to copy/paste or whatever about 5 or 6 posts ago. My computer skills are not what one would call even below average.”

  18. rogieshan - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    At the very least, Carroll is a good bunter and knows how to move runners along. I can’t tell you how many times I was frustrated with players on this team who couldn’t sacrifice.

  19. JayB - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    This is a very good idea…team needs him….has heart…plays hard and is fearless…..second best move to the off season.

  20. raleighnat - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    I would like to see a backup infielder other than Espinoza. I would like to see him in AAA playing everyday to get his groove back. Same for Moore really. I don’t like young guys on the bench. Maybe Carroll can be that guy. Doesn’t hurt to have the option.

  21. zmunchkin - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    To the folks who commented that he is probably a good clubhouse guy I have to say that one of the reasons that the Nats (specifically Jim B) sold him to the Rockies for cash was because the Nats felt he was problem in the clubhouse. He is a born again Christian and supposedly spent quite a bit of clubhouse time trying to convert other players.

    • Section 222 - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Thanks very much for this info. I wasn’t aware of it. There’s probably more of that in the game now than there was even back in 2005. Remember that post-game concert with the Christian rock band, with Desi, Stammen, and ALR going up on stage with them?

    • natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM

      Do you have a source for that tidbit?

      • zmunchkin - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        I think it might have been from one of Jim B’s weekly interviews on ESPN 980 that was shortly after the above USA Today article was published. He was asked if that is why Carroll was sold to the Rockies.

        And yes, I understand that Jim Bowden can’t necessarily be trusted.

  22. natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    (Meant for zmunchkin.)

    • zmunchkin - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      I figured that natsfan1a. I think it was probably in Jim B’s weekly interview on (what is now called) ESPN 980 – around the time of the article in the USA Today link that I included above.

      And yes, I understand that Jim Bowden is not exactly a trustworthy source.

      • natsfan1a - Jan 10, 2014 at 7:38 AM

        Thanks, zmunchkin. I’d seen a similar story about the Rockies culture at one point but hadn’t read anything about Carroll evangelizing, and I’ve always been rather an avid follower of all things Nats. :-) I’d actually wondered whether you might have confused him with Ryan Church, because I did recall seeing a religion-related controversy story about him. I found the story that generated the R. Church controversy (link below). Incidentally, while it does mention Carroll as being an attendee of Baseball Chapel services in 2005, it also states that Bowden had been a “chapel fan” since the 1970’s.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/17/AR2005091701522_pf.html

        (For the record, not that it matters, I don’t give a rat’s patoot whether my guys pray to JC, Jobu, or nobody.)

      • zmunchkin - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        I also don’t care about what religion (or not) a player practices. And you are right that it might have been Ryan Church. But my memory is that it was Carroll. And if I recall correctly, Church was traded the next year (Church and Schneider I think for Milledge). Maybe it was both of them and Church was the easier player to give away.

        Probably moot as I seriously doubt he makes the team. I am willing to bet he is just a body for ST, especially since he lives near Viera.

  23. David Proctor - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Well I’m not sure Bryce will be too interested in being “converted” from mormonism. And I don’t know what Werth believes in, but I can imagine Carroll easily ticking him off if that’s true.

  24. natsfan1a - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Yes, thanks. I don’t do armchair GM but I do understand that a minor-league deal is not a guarantee of making the “big” team.

    “Probably moot as I seriously doubt he makes the team. I am willing to bet he is just a body for ST, especially since he lives near Viera.”

  25. nats128 - Jan 10, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Whats not to like about this! Classiest guy the Nats had in 2005 and he would have been a much better player if they steroid tested early on. He played clean and got lost in the shuffle.

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