For the first time this spring, Rafael Soriano was battered around by an opponent. The veteran right-handed reliever entered the Nationals’ spring game against the Detroit Tigers on Monday with a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning and exited two outs later after allowing four runs on five hits.
Soriano sat between 89 and 91 mph on the radar gun, generally the range for his cut fastball. He fired his pitches to the heart of the Tigers’ order, but they smacked them around for hits. Miguel Cabrera hit a towering flyout to center field. Torii Hunter and Prince Fielder singled. Alex Avila fought off an inside pitch to right field for a single. Evaluating Soriano’s performance, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, however, said the right-hander was actually sharp.
“I thought that was the best he’s thrown all spring,” Johnson said. “I thought he made some quality pitches and they hit some pretty good pitches. I was really pleased the way he threw the ball.”
It’s spring, so remember: it’s about performance, not results. Johnson reiterated Monday that he wants to get his relievers on a more regular schedule of work to get them acclimated to the nearly daily work of the season and not the spring schedule of one-day-on, two-days-off. Monday was only Soriano’s fifth appearance of the spring, and he doesn’t throw much in the offseason, so he’s still building up to the season. He hopes to make up to eight spring appearances to get ready.
After Soriano allowed a two-out single to Omar Infante that plated another run, Johnson sent pitching coach Steve McCatty to talk with the right-hander. Soriano had already thrown a lot of pitches and McCatty asked him if he wanted another hitter. He did, but he allowed another run on yet another two-out single.
“I was pleased the way he threw the ball,” Johnson said. “I know he wasn’t pleased with the results but I like the way the ball was coming out of the hand.”
>>> Wilson Ramos went 3 for 3 at the plate and played seven innings for the first time since his May knee injury. He was again agile behind the plate. Kurt Suzuki is scheduled to catch Wednesday’s game.
Ryan Zimmerman played his second game at third base and, according to Johnson, felt fine afterward. Zimmerman made his first in-game routine play since offseason shoulder surgery. Routine throws were an issue for the third baseman last season and his ailing shoulder. He cleanly fielded a grounder in the first inning, took two crow hops toward first and launched the ball to Adam LaRoche’s chest for an out. It wasn’t a bullet but a solid throw.
>>> Drew Storen was sharper this outing. Facing the Tigers’ minor leaguers, he walked the first batter in the eighth. He struck out two, allowed a single and recovered again to strike out the final batter of the inning.
“He looked great,” Johnson said. “… He’s throwing from a different side of the rubber. What I liked is that he wasn’t taking as much time setting up and throwing the ball, which it helps a lot of ways. The defense was more alert. And you don’t paralyze yourself by thinking about what you’re going to do. He was more free and easy, which is more like him.”
>>> Henry Rodriguez made his fifth appearance of the spring, pitching in the ninth, and it started horribly. He walked the first two batters and then hit Ramon Santiago with a pitch. He struck out former Nationals farmhand Jeff Kobernus, traded a sacrifice fly for an out and then induced a groundout to end the inning.
Johnson believes the right-hander, who also had offseason surgery on his elbow, just needs more regular work to iron out his kinks. “He just needs to throw a lot down here,” he said.