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Yasel Antuna Just Wants To Keep Playing



Yasel Antuna keeps finding opportunities to play in 2020. The 21-year-old's next one will be with Licey in the Dominican League, where many players will be a decade or more older than him.

In July, the shortstop was on the border line of making the Nationals’ 60-man player pool and thus gaining experience at the alternate training site. He didn’t land his spot in Fredericksburg until Washington released veteran lefthanded reliever Fernando Abad a week before the start of the season.

From there, Antuna impressed with his ability to hit and hit for power from both sides of the plate.

Antuna “made strides in all phases,” Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said. “His approach continues to evolve, and he’s consistently barreled up the ball, used the whole field and done a great job staying in the strike zone. When he squares it up, the ball explodes off his barrel and stays hit on a line.”

After facing more advanced prospects for more than two months, Antuna reported to instructional league in West Palm Beach, Fla., and was one of the veterans among the 60-plus players in camp.

“He’s able to repeat his swing and stay connected from both sides of the plate," Scialabba said.

Antuna signed for $3.85 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, but injuries have limited him to 502 at-bats in the minor leagues. Just when he was starting to break out at low Class A Hagerstown in 2018, he found out he needed Tommy John surgery.

He took just six at-bats in 2019 but then impressed the Nationals at Dominican instructional league.

Licey drafted Antuna in 2018, but he was unable to play because of the elbow injury. This winter, it remains to be seen how much playing time he will receive. The Nationals hope he’ll continue to get regular at-bats and playing time.

Facing older pitchers who use an array of offspeed stuff would give Antuna a chance to work on his plate discipline.

CAPITAL GAINS

—- Catcher Tres Barrera has a spot on Escogido’s roster in the Dominican League. His 80-game ban for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug was reduced to 60, and he was reinstated from the restricted list. Barrera, 26, made his major league debut with two at-bats in 2019.

—- The Fredericksburg Nationals unveiled an 80-foot by 12-foot wall dedicated to the history of baseball in the Virginia city, ranging from the Civil War to the return of minor league baseball in 2020.

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