Evan Vucci/AP


Nationals 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 2/3 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.

Yesterday, the Nationals’ off day, Soriano traveled to his native Dominican Republic to tend to a minor family issue. He returned to Nationals camp today, and tomorrow he plans to visit the dentist to 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 4 2/3 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 miles per hour, 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.