Rafael Soriano was back at Nationals camp in Viera on Friday after receiving treatment for a tooth infection the previous afternoon. He didn’t travel with the team to Lake Buena Vista to face the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, but he still stopped by Space Coast Stadium to get some of his work in. He was scheduled to pitch on Friday but opted not to as the medication wears off.
“It wasn’t bothering me and didn’t stop me from pitching,” he said, downplaying what the Nationals described as a root canal.
Soriano went to his native Dominican Republic on Tuesday’s off day to tend to a personal family matter. While there, he went to Nationals academy near his home in Boca Chica to play catch and get a massage. “I didn’t want to go two days without doing anything,” he said. He is scheduled to travel to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets on Saturday.
Soriano also explained that he doesn’t put much stock in his subpar spring statistics. He said his arm strength and health are good. He is adjusting his pitches. But the spring training games just don’t have the same energy and emotion of regular season games.
“Spring training for me, I just don’t feel it,” he said. “I don’t feel the game.”
One scout in attendance noticed that Soriano’s velocity and performance were off a tick. But the Nationals aren’t concerned because Soriano is a veteran pitcher and knows what he needs to prepare for the season. He needs only eight appearances to get ready for the season, and so far he appeared in five games. He has allowed nine hits, six earned runs and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. Against the Tigers earlier this week, he had his worst outing of the spring statistically, allowing four runs on five hits and walked a batter.
“Of the games that I’ve pitched, the one I felt the best was against Detroit,” he said. “I felt good. The arm felt good and was starting to go.”
Soriano said Miguel Cabrera joked that he should throw him a slider, and Soriano instead threw a fastball that led to a towering flyout. And Torii Hunter, who has never notched a hit off Soriano, smacked a single and later told Soriano he was “lucky” to have gotten a basehit off of him. His cut fastball, Soriano admitted, was flat and he threw it some on Thursday and the bite returned.
>>> General Manager Mike Rizzo said he would like to keep starter Chris Young but the two could part ways if the right-hander lands a major league offer. Young, signed to a minor league deal a month ago to serve as insurance for the starters, can trigger the opt-out clause in his contract by the March 24 deadline.
“If he has opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, we’re certainly not going to keep him in the minor leagues if he has a chance at a big league job,” Rizzo said. “I think that’s only right. And that’s how we get these players to come with us under these conditions.”
Rizzo went as far as saying he loves Young and his ability, and felt confident he would iron out his command.
>>> The Nationals optioned right-handed reliever Cole Kimball to Class AAA Syracuse and re-assigned right-handed reliever Jeremy Accardo to minor league camp.
Kimball, who had been dealing with a tight back that held him out of games this week, showed substantial improvement in his return from 2011 surgery on his right rotator cuff and punched up a 2.84 ERA over 6 2/3 innings. Accardo, signed in the offseason to a minor league deal, posted a 5.14 ERA in seven innings.
The Nationals are down to 32 players in camp.