Rafael Soriano walked into the Nationals‘ clubhouse in Viera at 8:48 a.m. on Friday, dressed in grey sweatpants, black shoes and a long-sleeve shirt. The team’s splashy offseason addition immediately went to his locker and started changing into his uniform before his first workout with his new teammates. Eating breakfast nearby, Gio Gonzalez stood up and offered a welcome hug and congratulations to the team’s new closer.
Soriano, 33, wanted to arrive in Nationals camp early — on Sunday, he said, two days before pitchers and catchers reported to camp — because he wanted a head start on familiarizing himself with his new team. But Soriano, a Dominican native, was delayed by paperwork as the U.S. consulate transferred information from the visa he secured when he played for the Yankees to the new visa he has with the Nationals.
Soriano, who signed a two-year, $28 million deal with the Nationals in mid-January, received word of his clearance on Friday morning that he was allowed to travel. So he packed his bags and arrived in Viera at 1 a.m. the next day.
“I’m so happy to be here,” he said, standing at his locker.
The visa hold-up was frustrating, he admitted, and he kept himself busy working out and playing catch. He has thrown one bullpen session so far in the Dominican — normal for him, he said, as he rests his arm in the offseason.
He knows only one teammate in the clubhouse, Will Ohman, who was also on the 2008 Atlanta Braves. But slowly, he said, he will get to know his other teammates. After Gonzalez welcomed him, pitching coach Steve McCatty appeared and shook Soriano’s hand. McCatty told him they would soon talk about his pitching schedule and see how the right-handed reliever felt. Then, before he walked away, McCatty asked Soriano a question that made both men laugh.
“How you feel? Your back sore from carrying all that money?”