Two Years After Surgery, Sammy Solis Ready to Battle for Major-League Roster Spot

Sammy SolisAfter he was drafted in the second round by the Nationals in 2010, expectations were that left-hander Sammy Solis would take the fast track into the team’s starting rotation as one of the team’s top arms. But after his final start in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, Solis reported having in his elbow, and on March 6, 2012, he underwent Tommy John Surgery, which kept him out for the entire 2012 season.

Two years later, after having a season to get back on his feet in the minor leagues, Solis has received an invitation to Major-League Spring Training, and is ready to fight for a spot on the big-league team.”I’ll play shortstop if I have to,” Solis joked. “It’s very exciting [having a chance to make the big-league roster]. My entire career has been stop-and-go, stop-and-go, and I think now I’m finally 100 percent … I think I’m finally ready to make an impact with the team.”

Tommy John Surgery kept Solis out for his age-23 season, which is generally a critical year in the development of college prospects. But while his top-prospect status may have faded – he was Baseball America’s #86 prospect before the 2012 season – he has trained and recovered hard to get to this point, and now has a chance to potentially make the major-league roster out of camp as a 25-year old.

Solis has been a starter since his college days, however, he seemed more than willing to move to the bullpen, essentially conceding that he’d be focused on winning a pen spot. “I [relieved] in college my freshman year,” said Solis. “But not since then, so I’m excited about it. It’s a little different, but it’s exciting.”

Manager Matt Williams told reporters on Saturday that, “Ideally, you have two lefties,” and while he didn’t specifically mention Solis as a candidate, the fact that Solis is left-handed could give him an edge against the likes of Ryan Mattheus, Erik Davis and other current big-leaguers who will be competing for the final few bullpen spots.

Solis has never pitched above High-A ball (as he did in 2011 and 2013) in his three-year career, so he doesn’t have a large sample size going up against top talent. However, he’s gone to the Arizona Fall League three times, and in his most recent fall season in 2013, he posted solid results. “[The experience was] amazing,” said Solis. “Third time was the charm for me … The breaking ball was the hardest thing for me to find after surgery, [and] in the fall league, I really developed it. It really came around and it was my most effective pitch so I’m excited to see how that turns out this year.”

Solis is one of 58 players that will be in Nationals camp this spring. Matt Williams said today that the team wants 60 players in camp, so as the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore notes, look for the Nationals to sign a couple of players to minor-league deals.

Follow Michael Natelli on Twitter @MichaelNatelli.

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