New closer Soriano reports to Nationals camp

Rafael Soriano had planned to arrive early in camp with the

Washington Nationals. He was delayed by visa issues, but the team’s

new closer showed up Saturday in good shape and ready to get to

work.

”I want to win,” Soriano said. ”That’s what I’m here

for.”

The Nationals, who already have three pitchers who closed for

them at different points last season, signed Soriano to a $28

million, two-year contract in January.

He walked into the clubhouse Saturday and received a hug from

starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and a welcome-to-Viera greeting from

pitching coach Steve McCatty.

”Soriano is a great pitcher,” Gonzalez said. ”I think the guy

comes in and he brings a presence.”

Though he has 132 career saves, this is only the second time the

33-year-old Soriano has come to camp knowing he is expected to be

his team’s closer.

That was the case in 2010, when he saved 45 games for Tampa Bay

before signing with the New York Yankees in 2011 to be the setup

man for Mariano Rivera. When Rivera got hurt last season, Soriano

took over the closer’s role and had 42 saves.

Washington already had Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Henry

Rodriguez (who is recovering from elbow surgery) on the roster, and

all three spent time closing games last season.

Still, even Storen and Clippard agreed the move to sign Soriano

will only strengthen the club.

”You can’t really knock it, honestly,” Storen said. ”It’s

going to help our bullpen out, and you can never have too good a

bullpen. When it comes down to it, everybody’s going to be in big

spots. It doesn’t matter if it’s the seventh, eighth or ninth

inning.”

Soriano, a Dominican Republic native, is scheduled to throw his

first bullpen session for the Nationals on Monday. He told

reporters he had been throwing bullpens and playing long toss at

home while waiting for his visa to be approved so he could join

what will be the fifth team he has played for in his career.

The fact that he can come in as the closer for the defending NL

East champions only made the situation more exciting for him.

”To me, I was trying to find a team that needed help,” Soriano

said. ”I think I made a good decision with my (agent) to come

here. Everybody’s young. (It’s) a good team.”

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the right-hander appeared

to be in good shape, but added he only had a brief conversation

with Soriano, who told him he wanted to pitch back-to-back days at

least once this spring.

Johnson is hoping Soriano will be ready for a lot of

back-to-back days during the regular season, too.

”I haven’t figured out how much he wears down, but I’ve got a

lot of backups,” Johnson said. ”He was very nice. He said he

likes to look around early in camp (with) a new club. He likes to

keep his eyes open, feel his way (around).”

With so many quality relievers at his disposal, Johnson will

have plenty of options in the late innings. That’s not just a nice

problem for a manager to have, it’s also a good feeling for

Washington’s starting pitchers.

”We have a solid bullpen,” Gonzalez said. ”(Soriano) just

made it a little more tighter. You can be rest assured if you have

a short day, you know they’re going to go in and put in the work

for you.

”They’re definitely going to clean up a lot of my messes this

year. Hopefully, they do a great job for me.”

NOTES: OF Jayson Werth reported to camp and had a wide-ranging

discussion with reporters. Among the topics: He said his left

wrist, which he broke last May, is still not as strong as it once

was but it’s feeling better. Werth, who came back to serve as the

team’s leadoff hitter late last season, said the Game 5 loss to St.

Louis in the NL division series still weighs on his mind.

”Probably not daily, but there are definitely times when it will

pop in my head and I’ll kick something, or cuss,” he said. ”When

you get that close you can taste it and something like that

happens, that’s going to stick with you. It will probably stick

with me until I die. That’s OK. It’s not a big deal. It’s one of

those things that drives you.” … Werth thinks the natural

progression for young teammate Bryce Harper would be to play left

field this season, though he acknowledged that one day it will be

Harper in right field, with Werth moving to left. … Werth, who

came into the big leagues in 2002 before steroid testing with

penalties began, said he didn’t think Gonzalez was the sort of

player to cheat. ”I’ve seen a lot of things,” Werth said. ”I’ve

seen people you could suspect could be, may be … you maybe even

know if they are (on steroids). I don’t really feel like Gio would

ever be a guy like that. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I

am.” … RHP Tyler Clippard missed the workout to fly to Indiana

and celebrate the birthday of his 90-year-old grandmother. He is

expected back Sunday, when the teams holds its first full-squad

workout.