VIERA, Fla. - Rafael Soriano just faced three hitters in a scoreless seventh inning, throwing 12 pitches (seven strikes) and striking out Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman to end the frame.
Making his Grapefruit League debut with the Nationals, Soriano gave up a flyout to deep center off the bat of Justin Maxwell, then allowed a single to J.D. Martinez, which bounced off the glove of Ian Desmond. Just a couple of pitches later, Martinez was caught stealing, thanks to a strong throw by catcher Kurt Suzuki.
Soriano threw a couple nice sliders in his debut, but worked mostly off his fastball.
Danny Espinosa is 2-for-3 today, and his two-run single was part of a five-run sixth that has given the Nats a 7-1 lead as we go to the ninth.
In two sentences, Dan Haren has summed up how every single pitcher views their outings in spring.
“In spring training, if you do good, you feel great. If you do bad, you’re just working on stuff,” Haren said, drawing a chorus of laughter from reporters.
Haren nailed it with that assessment.
The veteran righty had some of both today. His first two innings were both 1-2-3 frames, with one strikeout in each. In the third inning, Haren gave up two hits, a walk and a run, needing 27 pitches to notch three outs. That inning allowed Haren to work out of the stretch a bit and build up his arm strength by pushing his pitch count for the game up to 50.
“I was just working on things in the third inning,” Haren said, playing off his joke. “It is good, probably. You build endurance through pushing yourself. I got pushed that third inning. The walk kind of frustrated me but besides that, two singles - one of them was hit fairly well - but besides that, I got most balls where I wanted them today.”
Haren said he threw mostly fastballs and cutters today, which worked for him early on. He mixed in one curveball and a couple splitters, and was happy with how he worked both sides of the plate.
“I was pitching inside good to righties, which is something I’ve really focused on this spring, just dedicating myself to working on that side of the plate,” Haren said. “Gave up a hit to (Jose) Altuve on a front-door cutter, something I didn’t barely throw last year, so I have to work on that. But for the most part, just going fastball-cutter. As spring progresses, definitely will mix in stuff more.”
Haren was asked how it was working with Wilson Ramos, who was behind the plate for the first time since blowing out his knee last May 12.
“I mean, I didn’t even really think about it, honestly,” Haren said. “I don’t even know what happened to him last year. I think he hurt his knee. But he seemed like he’s been catching for a while back there. I didn’t see him stabbing at balls or anything. He’s a nice big target. Good guy to have back there. It was god I had a chance to throw to him after I threw to Suzuki last time. It’s good to familiarize ourselves with each other.”
Through his two spring outings thus far, Haren has allowed two runs and four hits over five innings, with five strikeouts. His fastball velocity has been good - sitting around 89 mph today, according to one scout - and perhaps most importantly, he’s felt healthy and strong.
“I try not to dwell too much on the results of spring training because I don’t want to get too high or too low,” Haren said. “If I go out and strike out 10 guys, then OK, what does that earn me? But as long as I come out and feel good, I’m just trying to really take care of myself in between. I’m doing a lot more in between starts in preparation for the start. Just recovery.
“I want to go out there and feel good 30 times and help the team. I’m going to be out there regardless of how I feel.”
Update: That’ll do it. The Nationals beat the Astros 7-1. Tyler Clippard worked a clean eighth inning with two strikeouts and Jeremy Accardo finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth.