Feb 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Plenty of ballplayers have questioned whether six full weeks of spring training really are necessary, saying they don’t need that much time to get ready for the regular season. Rafael Soriano takes that philosophy to new extremes.
Soriano prefers to pitch as little as possible in spring training, believing he needs only a handful of game appearances in Florida before heading north for the long haul. Indeed, he has never pitched more than nine exhibition innings in a single spring, and last year pitched only 6 2/3 innings.
So the veteran closer is afforded a bit more leeway than his teammates when it comes to establishing a spring training regimen. While the rest of the Nationals began throwing off a mound Saturday, Soriano didn’t see foot in the bullpen for the first time until Tuesday.
Even then, his throwing session offered little reason to get excited. Throwing at perhaps 80 percent of his usual velocity, Soriano grooved a bunch of fastballs and sliders over the plate Tuesday morning, keeping the ball up in the zone more than he’d like but no so much so as to create mass panic along the Space Coast.
Manager Matt Williams hasn’t devised an exact spring plan for Soriano quite yet but intends to give him plenty of time to build himself up and then make a handful of game appearances come mid-to-late March. To that end, the Nationals gave Soriano a chance to take things easy in his first throwing session of the spring.
“We talked to him about his plan for spring training, and today was his first bullpen,” Williams said. “So, we told him today, you can just go eight minutes if you want to. He went the full 10, which is a very good sign. He felt good. The last three or four pitches, he let it go a little bit. So he’s right on track.”
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