VIERA, Fla. - This was Rafael Soriano’s first bullpen session since arriving at Nationals camp on Saturday, so he wasn’t about to overdo it.
Soriano took part in some long toss as the Nationals’ pitchers warmed up at the start of their workout, then chatted with manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty, the three men discussing how heavy a workload to give Soriano early in camp.
The 33-year-old righty then took a mound about midway down the bullpen 10-pack, two mounds away from where Tyler Clippard was throwing. Soriano asked to throw to catcher Kurt Suzuki, and started letting it rip.
Soriano looked to only be throwing with about 75 percent force, but the ball still jumped out of his hand. He threw mostly fastballs (as all pitchers do early in camp) but mixed in a bunch of sliders, located nicely on the outer half of the plate to right-handers, and some cutters.
“He looked real good,” Suzuki said shortly afterwards, commenting that he’s faced Soriano once before and knows how tough he can be when he’s in a game situation. “He wasn’t throwing too hard, but his command was really good.”
After wrapping up his session, Soriano had a brief chat with bullpen coach Jim Lett. Suzuki then approached the mound, and jokingly told Soriano to untuck his jersey, which has become the closer’s staple after he locks down a save. Soriano obliged.
Both Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo were impressed with what they saw from their new closer today, even though he clearly wasn’t showing his full arsenal.
“He’s a veteran guy, knows how to get himself ready,” Rizzo said. “He’s just getting the kinks out today and doing some touch-and-feel command stuff and just getting the arm loose for the first time.”
As he does with all of his veteran players, Johnson has made sure to have conversations with Soriano about how he likes to get ready during spring training. Because of the elongated camp this year due to the World Baseball Classic, the Nationals won’t be in a rush to get Soriano into Grapefruit League games, instead allowing the righty to come along slowly over these first couple weeks.
“He knows what he needs to do,” Johnson said. “He probably won’t work the first week (of the Grapefruit League season). Take it easy. I think in talking to him, he doesn’t need any more than a certain number of innings, probably no more than eight to 10.”