VIERA, Fla. - Javier Vasquez has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic and decided not to pitch in the major leagues this season, according to El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper.
The Nationals had scouted Vasquez in Puerto Rico this offseason prior to the veteran right-hander suffering a meniscus injury. General manager Mike Rizzo went down to watch Vasquez in person, and had been considering Vasquez as an option to give the Nationals increased starting pitching depth within the organization.
This news makes the Nationals' signing of Chris Young to a minor league deal a little more significant, although ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported yesterday that Young has a March 24 opt-out.
That means Young can choose to become a free agent on that date if he isn't happy with the direction things are going with the Nationals. With the Nats having their five starters in place, barring an injury, it will be interesting to see whether Young is willing to start the season in the minors or whether he'd prefer to look for a big league job.
The veteran right-hander threw a live batting practice session a bit ago, facing a group of hitters that included Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano and Will Rhymes.
My favorite part of the session was seeing the 6-foot-10 Young get congratulated by the maybe 5-foot-7 Rhymes after Young was done throwing.
Rhymes didn't even reach Young's shoulder level.
Rafael Soriano threw a live BP session immediately after Young. The Nationals' new closer jokingly talked some trash to Desmond on his way to the mound, telling the shortstop to kindly get in the batter's box. He didn't use those exact words, if you get my drift.
"I told him, 'You ready to swing? Let's go,' " Soriano said. "I want him to be ready for the season."
Soriano said he worked at about 60 percent force today, throwing mostly fastballs with a handful of sliders mixed in.
"First time, I'm not going to throw 100 percent," Soriano said. "There's no reason to do that."
Desmond ripped a few line drives right back up the middle, one of which whistled off a metal pole on the L-screen directly in front of Soriano. All in all, Soriano was pleased with how the ball was coming out of his hand today in his first time facing hitters this spring.
"Long time. I feel good today," he said. "Got to sit down with the boss tomorrow and see what I have to do after that. Maybe I'll be in the game, maybe I've got to throw one more (live batting practice)."
The boss is pitching coach Steve McCatty, who walked up to Soriano during his chat with reporters and fired a joke at his new closer.
Soriano has told manager Davey Johnson that he only needs about 8-10 innings in spring training to feel ready for the season. Asked whether he preferred to get in a game right away or throw another live BP before seeing Grapefruit League action, Soriano said it will depend how he feels in the next couple of days.
For the record, Soriano is good with being called Rafael, Rafi or Sori. He gets a mixture of the three from teammates.
Henry Rodriguez, meanwhile, is scheduled to throw a live BP session tomorrow, his first of spring after recovering from elbow surgery and dealing with some biceps tightness early in spring.
Anyone want to volunteer to face the flame-throwing right-hander?