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Slow and steady for Soriano

Feb 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

AP AP

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.”

  1. iconicwoodencap - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Sigh…. I hear many good things about the man. I try so hard not to be down on him. I can take the ups and downs of a player’s performance, but what gets me is the “don’t worry it will all (magically) work out” attitude. This ST has impressed me with the work ethic and determination shown by others to improve (e.g. , Stras working on holding runners).

    Is it just me or does it seem like Soriano doesn’t show much intensity or seriousness in addressing his glaring problems? He needs to do some hard work on all of his pitches. “Keeping the ball up in the zone” seems to be a chronic problem with him and yet there appears to be no urgency on his part to fix it. Pitches that used to work for him have degraded. I wonder if part of the problem is that there has been no talk of competition for the closer role? Perhaps there has and I’ve just missed it. I know the Nats paid a lot for him, but it seems reasonable to put some pressure on.

    It will be interesting to see how Matty deals with Soriano. I hope he will do more than give him a pat on the head for working 2 extra minutes and “letting it go for the last three or four pitches.”

    I’m looking forward to so many things with this team. I’m not looking forward to the dread in the pit of my stomach every time Soriano takes the mound in a close game….

  2. 3on2out - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    I am with you iconic. I was initially pleased to hear he reported to camp 10 pounds lighter. But this “I know what it takes to get ready for the season” attitude is yet another example of Soriano’s arrogance and disregard for reality. His half-ass spring training regimen resulted in a half-ass season last year. So his plan for this year? More of the same. I can’t wait for this guy to be gone.

    • scnatsfan - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      I think showing up in better shape shows he is serious about getting better. And for the lax spring training last year, well, we know where that came from. Not happening this year.

  3. Hiram Hover - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    I don’t think Soriano’s ST regimen was any different last year from previous years, so I wouldn’t blame that for last season’s outcomes.

    Soriano is who he is – expecting him to become someone different is vain, and foolish. Right now, signing him looks like one of Rizzo’s bigger mistakes (and in the scheme of things, it’s not that big).

    The best we can hope is that Soriano steps it up this year to play for his next contract, and redeems Rizzo’s decision somewhat.

  4. Doc - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Last year, Soriano proved the sabermetrics of ‘anybody can be a closer’.

    This year he needs to prove that he can offer something beyond that.

    • tcostant - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      If he saves a the last out of the final World Series game, then he was worth every cent…

  5. sjm308 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I am not a huge fan of Soriano or this deal but I find it ridiculous to ask that all of a sudden after 12 years in the majors you would ask a 33 year old to change his attitude and habits and become something he is not. That is honestly asking for disaster. One of the things I actually liked about Soriano was his demeanor. Do you guys honestly like watching Drew or Clip pace around the mound and step off 16 times before throwing a pitch after they have given up a walk or hit. One of the reasons Soriano is a closer is that he has a very very short memory.
    He just gets the ball back, looks at his hat and throws the next pitch. He is not Marino Rivera but he did have the 2nd most saves in the national league last year. Again, I am not a huge fan of his but this complaining about his attitude is just running into a brick wall. He is who he is and he should not change even though it obviously drives others crazy.

    • Section 222 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      +1

  6. cvillegoodtimes - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    Would love to see Williams use all of the relievers a little bit more regularly. If there is no save situation, Soriano should still pitch just to keep himself fresh. Soriano just needs to understand that if he doesn’t pitch the 9th in a save situation that he is still getting his paycheck!

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