Closer Rafael Soriano endured his worst outing of the spring Monday, getting pasted by the Tigers for four hits, a walk and five runs in just two-thirds of an inning. The velocity of his fastball hovered below his typical standard, and some observers wondered about him. As Manager Davey Johnson revealed Wednesday, there may have been a reason for the performance.
Tuesday, the Nationals’ off day, Soriano traveled to his native Dominican Republic to tend to a minor family issue. He returned to camp Wednesday, and on Thursday will undergo an operation on an infected wisdom tooth, Johnson said.
The Nationals still have Soriano scheduled to pitch Friday, but could alter his schedule depending on the dental work he requires. “We’ll play it by tooth,” Johnson said.
The Nationals want Soriano to put his tooth problem behind him, partly out of concern it could affect his throwing arm.
“That’s something you always look at,” Johnson said. “If you have a cracked molar or something, that can lead to an infection, and that can be a problem for your shoulder.”
Soriano, who arrived late to spring training because of a visa issue, only wants to throw eight games to prepare for the season, and the Nationals have effectively let him set his own schedule. Johnson and the Nationals are confident he’ll be fine once the season begins, that he’s a veteran who knows how to ramp up for a season.
He has appeared in five games and allowed nine hits, six earned runs and a walk in 42 / 3 innings. His last game inflated his subpar results, but some scouts said Soriano hasn’t looked like himself this spring. One scout said his velocity has been down — mostly 88-91 mph, a few ticks below his average of 92.2 from last year. Another said his cutter — his best pitch — has lacked the movement that makes it so effective.
Both scouts agreed that given Soriano’s veteran, unique approach to spring training games, those issues should only grow into concerns if they persist after opening day. The Nationals’ only worry in regard to Soriano, at the moment, pertains to his achy tooth.
Kurt Suzuki played nine innings in a 7-5 win over the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday, the first Nationals catcher to play a complete game this spring. Johnson brought all the regulars — including Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth — on the trip but played all of them five innings, except for Suzuki.
Johnson is leaning heavily on the starters this week, including on road trips, and will ease off them next week, the final one before the regular season starts. Suzuki played all nine innings and, according to Johnson, looked good.
Chris Young has loved playing for the Nationals since he signed one month ago, but he may not stay with them much longer if he keeps pitching like he did Wednesday afternoon.
Young, brought in on a minor league deal as insurance behind their starting rotation, delivered his best performance of the spring against the Marlins — two hits, one walk and two strikeouts over five scoreless innings. The outing could convince an opposing team in need of a starter to offer him a major league deal, allowing Young to trigger the opt-out clause in his contract by the March 24 deadline.
The Nationals plan for Young to start Monday, the day after his opt-out deadline. But will he still be around by then?
“I don’t know,” Johnson said.
Young plans to meet and talk with his agent between now and then to discuss his options. While he has enjoyed everything about the Nationals, he admitted the obvious — he would accept any major league opportunity rather than serving as depth for the Nationals at Class AAA Syracuse. . . .
The Nationals completed the three-team January trade that shipped Michael Morse to Seattle and Washington received former farmhand A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen in return from Oakland. The Nationals on Wednesday acquired the player to be named: left-hander Ian Krol.
Krol, 21, picked in the seventh round of the 2009 draft out of Naperville, Ill., reached Class AA Midland last season. Between high-A and AA last season, he posted a 5.20 ERA split between starting and relieving, and posted a 3.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio.