Soriano gets to root of tooth pain, Bernadina returns and says he's "close"

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Rafael Soriano's wisdom tooth issues will hopefully be a thing of the past very soon.

The Nationals closer was scheduled to undergo a root canal this afternoon near the team's Viera spring headquarters and manager Davey Johnson said he thinks the right-hander might be able to pitch as scheduled Friday against the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium.

"I think he had a root canal at 2 o'clock," Johnson said before the Nationals battled the Braves at Champion Field on Thursday. "I don't know if they've got all the nerve yet or not. But I've had a few of those and they're not much fun. I just hope he got enough Novocaine so it didn't really hurt him too bad. He should be fine."

Johnson said yesterday that Soriano was dealing with an infected wisdom tooth. Today he offered that team medical personnel thought the infection was in its early stages and the oral surgery was a precaution against a possible abscess.

Soriano is supposed to pitch Friday and the manager said he saw no reason he couldn't - provided he gets medical clearance.

"Toothache never hurt anybody from pitching. ... I'm sure he's probably fine," Johnson said.

Even if Soriano were to miss his Friday assignment, Johnson saw no reason the free agent acquisition wouldn't be ready to start the season as closer. Soriano has already logged five relief appearances and should have another three before spring training ends. After Friday, Soriano is slated to make back-to-back outings next week in preparation for the start of the season.

While Soriano focuses on soft food and pain relievers for a couple of days, the Nationals welcomed outfielder Roger Bernadina back from the World Baseball Classic, where he played for the Netherlands. Bernadina is in uniform and may come on as a defensive replacement in tonight's game before starting Friday.

"We're finally preetty much at full strength. Probably, Jayson Werth, (Denard) Span and (Bryce Harper) are more happy to have him back than anybody here," Johnson said.

Bernadina, who reported with the remnants of a bruised right wrist, said he enjoyed representing his homeland despite the fact that "I feel like I've been gone for months."

"I had a great time over there," he said.

The wrist problem, the result of being hit by a pitch, is no longer an issue, he added, and he's ready to play

"I'm pretty close," he said. "After a couple of days, I'm ready to go. ... A couple of days and I'm all ready for opening day."

Perhaps so, but he'll need to convince his manager.

"I want to see how he is with my own eyes," Johnson said. "See what he needs. Still got plenty of time for me to check him out and give him enough playing time to get him where he needs to be. I'm sure he's pretty close."

Right-hander Cole Kimball, who has been battling back tightness, threw a bullpen session Wednesday and could be in line to get in a game in the next few days. Kimball hasn't pitched since March 13.

"We'll probably get him in a game and see how he is," Johnson said.

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