Rafael Soriano warmed up with one out in the ninth inning of Friday’s 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. Manager Davey Johnson called down to the bullpen when Craig Stammen walked a batter and allowed a double with one out. If one more batter reached, the Cubs would have the game-tying run at the plate and Johnson would have turned to Soriano.
It would have been the third straight day Soriano appeared in a game. Nonetheless, it was another day of getting loose in the bullpen. He has appeared in six of the past eight Nationals games, a toll not as heavy as it sounds because of Monday’s day off and Tuesday’s rainout. But Johnson checked with Soriano on Saturday morning to make sure he felt fine. Soriano told Johnson he was available.
“I know he’s a veteran enough guy. He ain’t going to be throwing until it comes down to” appearing in the game, Johnson said.
Early this season, Johnson has been learning the limits of his new closer. Soriano has appeared in 16 games, the most of any Nationals pitcher, and thrown 16 innings. He has saved 12 of the Nationals’ 20 wins, and is tied for second in the National League in saves.
Soriano said the most consecutive days he has ever thrown in his career is four. He is willing to do it if needed but admitted that three straight days is a reasonable limit. What helps is that when he warms up in the bullpen he doesn’t throw much or hard. He prefers playing catch and stretching, saving his full force for the game.
He has told Johnson only once that he needed a day off, after saving all three games in series against the Chicago White Sox in early April.
“It all depends on how I feel,” Soriano said. “If I feel good, I keep pitching. If I need a day or two days, I’ll say something. In Atlanta, I threw four days in a row once. I think in New York or Tampa, the same thing happened. I’ve felt good. Everything feels good.”
“If I need a day, I’ll say something,” he said. “If not, I want the ball.”