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Ayala returns to Nats on minor-league deal

Feb 7, 2014, 12:17 PM EST

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Luis Ayala, a key member of the Nationals’ inaugural bullpen in 2005, is returning to the organization six years after last pitching for it.

The Nationals have signed Ayala to a minor-league contract with an invitation to big-league spring training, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The 36-year-old right-hander pitched for the Braves and Orioles last season, posting a 3.27 ERA in 39 combined appearances but putting 51 men on base in only 33 innings.

Selected away from the Diamondbacks in the 2002 Rule 5 draft, Ayala debuted for the Expos in 2003 and made 320 appearances for the organization over the next six seasons, the final four after the club relocated to Washington. He was the top setup man in the inaugural 2005 Nationals bullpen but was never the same after blowing out his elbow pitching for Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, an injury that required Tommy John surgery.

The Nationals traded Ayala to the Mets in 2008, and he has spent the last six years bouncing around the league, pitching for seven different organizations.

Ayala will face a stiff challenge trying to make the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen. Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen all are locks to head north with the club. That leaves two available spots for a host of pitchers, including Ryan Mattheus, Ross Ohlendorf, Xavier Cedeno, Tanner Roark, Ross Detwiler, Erik Davis, Sammy Solis and fellow non-roster invitees Clay Hensley and Manny Delcarmen.

  1. David Proctor - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Surprised we could get him on a minor league deal. He’s not exactly overpowering, but he’s been pretty good the last two years. I like the depth, if nothing else.

  2. karlkolchak - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Ayala. Carroll. Can Brian Schneider be far behind?

    He’d be at least as good as any of our other backup catcher options.

    • tcostant - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Let invite Chad Cordero to camp too!

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        count me in that camp. cordero is trying a comeback with angels I believe.

    • jd - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      I think Schneider retired.

  3. DaveB - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    I don’t see a mention of Christian Garcia … has anyone heard how his rehab is coming? Seems like the last anyone posted, he had pitched a very few innings in the winter league and then gone onto some kind of “reserve list” for his team. It wasn’t specifically called an injured reserve, but having no updates at all (and the fact that the Nats are still signing RH relievers) makes me think his comeback is not looking good.

    • Doc - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      Thanks for bringing C. Garcia up, DaveB.

      Maybe Zuk or Chase could give us an up date??

      When I looked at the Mexican League roster, I sorta thought that he was injured again.

  4. mlblogsnatsboy - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Just shoot me in the head. Probably one of the last ex-Nats I would ever want to return. Bad reliever with a bad attitude when he was here before.

  5. David Proctor - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Just saw Ayala’s WHIP. Yikes. But still like him on a minor league deal.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Ayala staying in AAA all season means good things for Nationals. Please do, Ayala.

  7. 3on2out - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    I remember him from his first go-round with the Nats.

    To paraphrase Longfellow:

    …When he was good, he was very, very good,
    But when he was bad he was horrid.

  8. David Proctor - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Apparently the O’s and Phillies are out on AJ Burnett. I really, really want him.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      no compensation attached, right?

      • David Proctor - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Nope. Just cash.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        come on son, we gotta be all over this guy. Rizzo, you hear me??

    • Section 222 - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I love Amaro’s quote: “We’re always looking, always trolling.”

      At least he’s honest.

  9. Section 222 - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    If Ayala comes north, we are in deep trouble.

    • jd - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      I agree,

    • senators5 - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      No chance of that happening, but he can be a valuable innings cruncher in Syracuse where our young arms need protection, which I believe this deal is, insurance for down on the farm(s). Plus, when he was with the Nats he was a great team guy and that ingredient could be valuable for the youngsters. Adding Livo to the mix was an absolutely great move by Rizzo and this deal rings of the same, the old and the new. Go Nats

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    man, that Burnett signing would be perfect. RD and Roark can go to bullpen with Clip, Sori, Drew, Craig, Blevins. Ohlie and TJ can go to minors. Depth everywhere!

    • NatsLady - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      That would be a scary rotation. And only for a year (presumably) so not locked and doesn’t block Taylor Jordan, Nate Karns, & AJ Cole… You also have Solis if needed.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Exactly! Likely Burnett’s best shot at winning it all! damn, I am liking it more and more.

    • Section 222 - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      If we sign Burnett, even the Dodger and Tiger lovers would have to admit we have the best rotation (on paper) in baseball. :-)

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        despite what happened last season, I like the sound of that.

  11. Jacob Rasch - Feb 7, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    So now, with Ayala, the Nats have 10 relievers for 7 spots. With Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Stammen, and Blevins guaranteed to make the team, that leaves 5 relievers (Ohlendorf, Roark, Cedeno, Ayala, and Mattheus) for just 2 spots. So who makes the Opening Day bullpen? May take here:

  12. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 7, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    For those lusting after A.J. Burnett:

    I caution, however, that the article seems to be a combination of speculation and some circular reporting, but you never know…

  13. Sam - Feb 8, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    I completely disagree with most people here… But hey, what would be the fun if we all agreed?

    I don’t think Ayala is such a bad option:
    1.) He can’t be any worse than Mattheus.
    2.) He’s a ground ball pitcher, and we have an excellent infield

    I only caution on the fact that he’s coming from Atlanta, which likely suppressed the number of home runs he allowed.

    Next, I really don’t want the Nationals to sign Burnett. While with the Yankees, he gave up the most – by far – “just enough” home runs. Those same types of batted balls turned into harmless outs in the vast abyss that is the outfield at PNC Park. Nationals Park is pretty neutral, so you have to imagine that some of those flyouts turn into home runs.





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