Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Justin Maxwell hit a paltry .102 this spring, leading to his demotion.
VIERA, Fla. -- Justin Maxwell was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse this morning, ending a disappointing spring that saw the outfielder struggle mightily at the plate despite a golden opportunity to win a starting job.
Maxwell, 26, hit a miniscule .102 (5-for-49) with 20 strikeouts. He saw significant playing time as a contender for the starting job in right field once Elijah Dukes was released earlier in camp but ultimately couldn't seize the opportunity.
The Nationals are expected to use a combination of Willie Harris, Mike Morse and either Willy Taveras or Roger Bernadina in right field once the regular season begins.
"I wanted Maxwell to make the ballclub," manager Jim Riggleman said. "That's the way I came into the spring. I just think he's really a good-makeup guy. He's a great athlete. But you know, he's just having some trouble right now with the bat, and we've just got to go in a different direction for a while. I know he's going to play for us, and maybe play for us soon. But we've just got some other options there right now that we're going to have to go with."
Maxwell, an Olney native selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Maryland, spent last season bouncing back and forth between Washington and Syracuse and faces perhaps another year of uncertainty because he still has minor-league options.
"You're never happy about it," he said. "But it's encouraging the fact that I know the front office likes the way I play and then know what I can do. They just want me to keep working on it and be more consistent. That's all I can do."