Original Nat Carroll returns on minor-league deal

Original Nat Carroll returns on minor-league deal
January 9, 2014, 2:00 pm
Share This Post

Zuckerman breaks down 2014 Hall of Famers (VIDEO)

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.