Chico optioned to Syracuse; Burke to the DL

The Nationals optioned left-hander Matt Chico to Triple-A Syracuse, while re-assigning left-hander Doug Slaten and catcher Jamie Burke to Minor League camp Saturday.  

Of the three, Chico is the most intriguing because he had a chance to become the fifth starter in the rotation. After missing almost two years because of elbow reconstruction, Chico proved he is 100 percent healthy, but it wasn’t enough.

In three outings — including an intrasquad game — Chico gave up five earned runs in seven innings. In two of those starts, Chico looked like the player who collected a lot of groundball outs. The bad performance came March 13, when Chico gave up the five earned runs in an inning- plus against the Astros. That usually means that he can’t throw strikes with his breaking ball. Chico will be the first to say he can’t throw just his fastball to get by.

“I felt I would be probably be a long shot out of anyone just because of the history of being out [for almost two years],” Chico said. “The only thing I could do was come and show that I’m healthy and throw some pitches a little better than I did before. I think I did that. I’ll just take it all in stride going into the season.”

General manager Mike Rizzo, who drafted Chico when both were with the D-backs, felt Chico needed more innings in the Minor Leagues after being out of action for a long time.

“The decision [to send Chico to Syracuse] was performance based and developmental based, but I feel he is 100 percent back from his surgery,” Rizzo said. “His arm looks better, he looks stronger and crisp than when he started the 31 [Major League] games for us in 2007. 

“I told him that he hasn’t looked this good since his early days with the Diamondbacks. He was a pleasant surprise in Spring Training. I felt,  because of the lack of innings that he lost, he needs to go and refine his skills down in the Minor Leagues. He is not an overhaul-type of guy at all. He needs to go get his innings and correct the flaws that he has gained after losing all that time.”

As for Slaten and Burke, they most likely will start the season in Syracuse with Burke starting the season on the disabled list. He has a torn right meniscus and is expected to miss four to six weeks.           

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