WASHINGTON — The Nationals released former closer Jonathan Papelbon on Saturday, a few hours before their game against the Braves.
The move was expected as of Saturday morning, by which time the closer and his representatives had discussed his release. The Nationals needed to free up a roster spot before calling up Saturday night's starter, rookie RHP Reynaldo Lopez, from Triple-A Syracuse.
"There wasn't a real fit anymore," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Didn't know where to use him."
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo informed Papelbon that the organization planned to designate him for assignment. That would have given the Nats 10 days to return him to the active roster, trade him, release him or send him to the minors. Papelbon, hoping to seek work elsewhere sooner, asked to be released instead.
The Nationals are responsible for the rest of his $11 million salary this year.
The six-time All-Star had a tumultuous tenure in Washington that included him grabbing National League MVP Bryce Harper by the throat during a dugout altercation in September. This season, Papelbon, 35, converted 19 of 22 save opportunities but struggled in July and has a 4.37 ERA.
Washington acquired the fiery Papelbon in July 2015 to replace Drew Storen as its closer.
Also, Harper had an MRI exam for a neck injury that has sidelined him this week. Harper was out of the lineup night for a fifth straight game but is still considered day to day.
BRANTLEY DONE: Indians OF Michael Brantley, who has played only 11 games this season for the AL Central leaders, is scheduled to have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder Monday. Brantley had surgery in November and began the season on the disabled list. He was activated in late April but returned to the DL on May 10 with biceps tendinitis.
KERSHAW PROGRESSING: Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw took another step forward in his attempt to return to the rotation this season, playing catch for the second day in a row. Sidelined since his last start on June 26, Kershaw (mild disc herniation) extended his throwing to 90 feet during the pregame session, one day after a session from 65 feet.
RECORD STREAK continues: Indians catching prospect Francisco Mejia's hitting streak was extended to 50 games when an official scorer changed an error to a double after the game, making him 1-for-4 for Class A Lynchburg, which was playing at home. The streak is the longest since the minors were reduced to four classes in 1963.
ANGELS: OF Shane Robinson, a former Jesuit High standout, went on the 15-day DL with a strained right hip flexor.
BLUE JAYS: RHP Roberto Osuna matched Terry Forster's MLB record by recording his 46th career save before his 22nd birthday.
CARDINALS: OF Matt Holiday (broken right thumb) went on the 15-day DL.
METS: OF Yoenis Cespedes, out since Aug. 3 with a strained right quad, is set to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Monday with Class A St. Lucie. … Former Rays SS Asdrubal Cabrera, out since Aug. 1 with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, could begin a rehab assignment as early as Tuesday.
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ORIOLES: RH reliever Darren O'Day went on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder rotator cuff strain.
PHILLIES: Rookie RHP Zach Eflin pitched the past few weeks with a fracture in his right foot that was not discovered until Friday and will likely be shut down for the season.