Results tagged ‘ Rafael Soriano ’

Nats declined to exercise options on LaRoche, Soriano; Cabrera, Hairston, Schierholtz become free agents

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielders Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz are now free agents.

The Nationals also declined to exercise their options on first baseman Adam LaRoche and right-hander Rafael Soriano. None of the players are expected to be back with the team in 2015.

LaRoche reached the 90-RBI plateau for the fourth time in his career, but he is not coming back because the Nationals plan to put Ryan Zimmerman at first base. Recently, LaRoche said Zimmerman will be a quality first baseman.

“I think he is going to be an outstanding first baseman. I said that last year,” LaRoche said about Zimmerman. “He has one of the best gloves I’ve ever seen. He is an athlete. When the time comes, whether it’s next year or the following year or this postseason, he can handle that bag for sure.”

Soriano had a 6.48 ERA after the All-Star break. Soriano simply couldn’t keep his slider down in the strike zone and lost his closer’s job to Drew Storen

General manager Mike Rizzo decided to acquire Cabrera from the Indians before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Cabrera provided steady defense at second, as Anthony Rendon shifted over to third base.

After coming from Cleveland, Cabrera expressed his desire to play shortstop, but after the Nationals were eliminated from the National League Division Series, he said he was willing to stay at second base. Going to the World Series is more important to him than playing shortstop. It is believed that the Nationals will not pay a lot of money to keep Cabrera.

Hairston and Schierholtz were part of the bench this past season. Hairston got off to a great start, but he tailed off dramatically starting in June and was taken off the roster during the NLDS.

As a pinch-hitter, Schierholtz ranks sixth among active players with at least 150 pinch-hit appearances. He started the season with the Cubs, but after getting released on Aug. 13, he signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals five days later. He made $5 million in 2014. It’s doubtful the Nationals will pay Schierholtz that kind of money in ’15, though he could be back on a Minor League deal.

 

Nats notes: Williams to ‘address’ closer situation

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — After Rafael Soriano’s rough second half continued with a blown save in Friday’s loss to the Phillies, Nationals manager Matt Williams stopped short of announcing a change in closers but said he will “address” the situation.

“It’s not an easy decision,” Williams said, following Soriano’s three-run, two-homer ninth inning. “None of them are. But we want to be able to close those games out. Sori understands that — he’s been around the block.”

Williams said he will talk with the veteran and “see where we’re at,” on Saturday. The Nats used nine relievers in Wednesday’s crazy win over the Dodgers and then eight on Friday, so even with a 10-man bullpen thanks to expanded September rosters, options will be a bit limited for the second game of the series.

But if Williams wants to turn to someone other than Soriano, he has choices. Tyler Clippard saved 32 games in 2012, a year after Drew Storen saved 43. Lefty Matt Thornton has saved 23 over an 11-year career.

“We’ll address it,” Williams said. “Again, I’m not gonna let [the media] know exactly what’s gonna happen right now, but we have guys that have done it, so we have multiple options. I can give you that. Depends on who’s available, who’s fresh, who’s not. But we have multiple options, which is a good thing for us. Guys who have been there before.”

Soriano entered Friday’s ninth inning with a 7-4 lead but gave up a leadoff single to Domonic Brown before Carlos Ruiz mashed a two-run homer. Two outs later, Ben Revere tied the game with his only his second career homer, in nearly 2,000 plate appearances. Both long balls came on two-strike sliders up and out over the plate.

Since the All-Star break, Soriano has allowed 15 earned runs, 27 hits and seven walks over 19 1/3 innings, but he said he feels fine physically and with his fastball. He plans to watch video and sit down with pitching coach Steve McCatty on Saturday. He’ll also throw in the bullpen for McCatty in an effort to figure out what’s wrong.

Told of Williams’ comments, Soriano said he and his manager share “good communication.”

“I talk to him in Spring Training,” said Soriano, who has converted 31 of 38 chances this season. “That be my job in the ninth, and right now it not be too easy to do. I have to do it better. I gotta figure out what’s going on right now and do it better.”

Meanwhile, teammates Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span all expressed support for Soriano.

“He’s our closer,” LaRoche said. “He’s done it for a long time, he knows what he’s doing and he knows how good he is. He’s put up some really good years. It’s really easy through a short stretch to second guess what somebody is doing.

“I think this will pass and nobody will think twice about it. He’s just going through one of those stretches where nothing is working out. Good pitches are getting fouled off. The ones that were getting hit right at somebody are hitting a gap or leaving the ballpark. He’ll be all right.”

 

A couple of other notes from a wild night at the ballpark:

– Harper and Span combined for a costly mistake in the 11th inning when they collided while going for Brown’s fly ball into the left-center gap, allowing it to drop for a two-base error. Brown later scored the go-ahead run.

“It got to the point where I thought I could get it, [Span] called it, and we bump into each other,” Harper said. “Center field priority, of course. I got to get out of there.”

Added Span: “I saw him in my peripheral [vision], but I thought he was going to veer off and just didn’t. I’m pretty positive he didn’t hear me. Just miscommunication, basically.”

– Span picked up his 1,000th career hit with a first-inning single and tipped his helmet to the crowd after receiving a big ovation.

“It was definitely touching, heartfelt, and just unbelievable,” he said. “The fans, they’ve embraced me, really since the second half of last year. It was just a good feeling when the fans acknowledge you for your hard work.”

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Soriano leads group of Nats’ All-Star snubs

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Rafael Soriano entered Sunday’s game against the Cubs with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, tossed six of his eight pitches for strikes and retired the side in order for his 21st save. It was a performance representative of the closer’s strong season, yet Soriano was not among the pitchers named to the National League All-Star team a couple of hours later.

Soriano headed the list of snubs for the Nats, who have only one guaranteed All-Star despite a 48-39 record that puts them a half-game behind the Braves in the NL East. While right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was selected for the second year in a row and infielder Anthony Rendon is one of five Final Vote candidates, Washington has at least a few other players who can argue reasonably for inclusion.

“I think there’s some guys that are deserving, Soriano being one of them,” Zimmermann said. “He’s having a great year. Hopefully we can get Rendon in there, too.”

In his second season with Washington, Soriano has converted 21 of 23 save opportunities and held the opposition scoreless in 32 of his 35 appearances. He boasts a 1.03 ERA and .154 opponents’ average in 35 innings, with 11 walks, 18 hits and only one home run allowed, along with 32 strikeouts.

Then there’s the set-up duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, which has been about as reliable getting leads to Soriano as he has been saving them. Storen allowed a run on Sunday, only his fourth in 27 innings this season, a 1.33 ERA to go along with a .204 opponents’ average. Clippard wiggled out of a jam in the eighth inning for his 29th scoreless appearance out of his past 30. He’s posted a 1.89 ERA, a .200 opponents’ average and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Clippard was asked if he was surprised the back end of the Nats’ bullpen came up empty in terms of All-Star nods.

“It’s a joke, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know who’s gonna make it. I’m sure there’s a lot of worthy guys out there, but what Soriano’s done this year, there’s no way he doesn’t make the All-Star team, in my opinion. That guy’s got under a 1.00 ERA and 21 saves, and it’s incredible that he didn’t make it.”

Beyond Rendon and the bullpen, first baseman Adam LaRoche has an argument for making his first Midsummer Classic in his 11-year career. After going 0-for-2 with a pair of walks on Sunday, LaRoche is hitting .294/.401/.482, which would give him the second-highest OPS of his career and the eighth-best in the NL this season.

However, LaRoche also missed 14 games with a quad strain, which has cut into his counting stats (12 home runs, 45 RBIs). That hurts in a crowded field of NL first basemen.

Of course, the Nats’ All-Star contingent still could grow, either through the Final Vote or the usual flood of replacements due to injury or other factors.

“I think there’s a couple other guys that are deserving to go,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Rendy’s in the running for it, so hopefully he gets it. But I think he’s been an All-Star. You could argue for Soriano. He’s been lights-out. You could argue for Adam. There’s two or three guys extra that I think should be acknowledged, especially because we’ve been playing good baseball as a team. We’re pretty much a first-place team, and we only have one guy, so I think that’s a little odd.”

Nats bullpen strong again, but eventually snaps

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — Nationals relievers came into Friday with a 2.56 ERA that ranked first in the Majors, and after Drew Storen surrendered a leadoff double to the Braves’ Tommy La Stella in the seventh inning, the bullpen set down the next 18 in a row.

That performance set the stage for Washington to rally and send the game into extra innings, but eventually, manager Matt Williams found himself backed into a corner.

When the 13th inning rolled around, Williams already had used Storen, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Jerry Blevins. His options at that point were to send Blevins out for a second frame, use rookie Aaron Barrett for a fourth consecutive day or turn to Ross Detwiler, who threw 45 pitches on Wednesday and has allowed 16 runs and 35 baserunners in his last 16 2/3 innings. As such, Williams admitted he felt he needed to stick with Blevins.

“You could go to Barrett four days in a row, but that’s dangerous,” Williams said.

A second inning probably wasn’t ideal for Blevins, either. The lefty had allowed a run on three hits in two-thirds of an inning on Thursday, throwing 18 pitches and taking a comebacker off his knee. He then used another 12 pitches during a 1-2-3 12th inning on Friday.

Blevins issued a leadoff walk to B.J. Upton, then gave up two consecutive hits and eventually two runs. Still, he didn’t offer any excuses.

“Everybody’s tired,” he said. “We’re in the 13th inning. Their guys have been going the whole time our guys have. Gotta step up, but I didn’t get the job done. Gave up a couple runs, didn’t get it done.”

Looking ahead, the bullpen could be in some trouble for the rest of the series if it needs to soak up significant innings. Blevins and Stammen both have worked on consecutive nights, while Clippard, Soriano and Barrett have pitched in three out of four. That leaves Storen and Detwiler as the freshest arms available, barring a roster move.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

Does Davey agree with Knorr’s decision?

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

One of the Nationals’ most controversial managerial decisions of the season occurred in the ninth inning of Thursday’s win against the Pirates. And manager Davey Johnson wasn’t the one who made it.

After Johnson was ejected in the fifth inning, bench coach Randy Knorr assumed the team’s managerial duties and decided to remove closer Rafael Soriano from the game in the ninth. Knorr put in rookie Ian Krol, who walked Pedro Alvarez, struck out Jose Tabata and then allowed a two-run single that tied the game.

“In the past, I’ve seen [Soriano] pitch and when it’s not a save opportunity, he doesn’t have the same effect when he’s pitching,” Knorr explained. “He wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate and a couple lefties were coming up. I like the way Krol throws the ball. Figured if you don’t want to be in that mode to shut the game down, I’ll bring somebody else in.”

When asked Friday morning if he agreed with Knorr’s decision, Johnson said that he didn’t know.

“I know I was watching in my office, and I don’t try to control things from my office. Once I get ejected, I’m done,” Johnson said.  “I [would] want to see it coming out of his hand and the way hitters are reacting. But, a good baseball man trusts whatever they do.”

Friday’s ninth inning marked the first time that Soriano has pitched less than one inning all season, but Johnson doesn’t think that will affect him.

“No, I mean, he’s a professional,” he said. “Strange things happen in a baseball season. He’s been hooked before.”

Nats’ McCatty not worried about bullpen

The Nationals’ relievers are off to a slow start, allowing 20 runs in 21 2/3 innings entering Wednesday action against the White Sox. Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen are the only pitchers in the bullpen with an ERA of 3.00 or lower. After seven games last year, the relievers allowed just six runs in 20 1/3 innings.

As recently as Tuesday night, the Nats’ bullpen allowed six runs to the White Sox. The big blows came when Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard, while Rafael Soriano allowed a two-run homer to Alex Rios.

But pitching coach Steve McCatty isn’t worried about the bullpen and feels it will get its act together soon. All that matters to McCatty is that the Nationals are winning. The team is 5-2 entering Wednesday’s action.

“Yesterday was two mistakes and we didn’t hit our spots – fastball in and a slider away,” said McCatty who was referring to Clippard and Soriano. “Do I have any concerns? No. Could they do better? Sure. But it’s still early. Clip didn’t give up a run all spring, so something is going to happen. Sori has a little tweak in his leg and that is not an excuse, but it was a pitch we knew you can’t throw that kind of mistake — breaking ball that spins over the plate. He left it in there.

“Everybody is looking at the first seven games that we are playing. Could we be sharper? Sure. Is there a reason to doubt it? No. There is going to be stretches during the season, where everybody is going to have their moments where everything is clicking together. But fortunately, the offense has been good enough that we are still able to get the wins.”

McCatty said he doesn’t have any concerns about anyone in the bullpen, including Henry Rodriguez, who is coming off elbow problems.

“Henry has done better. His arm is feeling fine,” McCatty said. “With him, every once in a while, he has a tendency to overthrow. We know that. But the next time out [against the Reds] he threw nine pitches. So it’s an on-going thing with him. He is still a young kid and learning what he needs to do every time. Am I concern about him? No. He has unbelievable stuff. He has to learn how to harness it.”

Nats’ Soriano picks up first save of season

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano was not productive during Spring Training, going 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA. But, during Monday’s 2-0 victory over the Marlins, one would have never thought that Soriano had a poor spring.

In fact, he looked like that guy who saved 42 games for the Yankees last year. He pitched one shutout inning, picked up two strikeouts and his first save as a member of the Nationals. After he struck out Giancarlo Stanton to end the game, Soriano untucked his jersey to indicate that the game was over and it waas time to go home.

“Obviously, Spring Training is overrated, but he certainly turned it up a notch and made nothing but quality pitches. He was outstanding,” manager Davey Johnson said about Soriano.

Teammate Tyler Clippard wasn’t surprised that Soriano produced after the regular season started.

“He was always a guy that shines when the lights came on,” Clippard said. “I think we all realize that. In Spring Training, he is a veteran guy. He knew what he needed to do to get ready and he was ready.”

Soriano arrives, ready to work with Nats

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano arrived in camp Saturday morning and was greeted in the clubhouse by teammate Gio Gonzalez and general manager Mike Rizzo.  Soriano would later get reacquainted with left-hander Will Ohman. The two played together when they were with the Braves  in 2008.

Soriano had visa issues, but was able to obtain one Friday morning in the Dominican Republic. Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report this past Wednesday. While waiting to get his visa, Soriano was still able to find time  to work out.  In fact, Soriano was working out at the beach when he received word that he able to obtain his passport.

“I’m so happy to be here. I wanted to be here a little bit early and be with my new team” Soriano said.

Soriano, who joins a bullpen that already includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, has a 2.78 career ERA in 11 seasons spent with the Mariners, Braves, Rays and Yankees. The Nats signed Soriano after their bullpen struggled during last year’s National League Division Series against the Cardinals, allowing 16 earned runs in five games.

Soriano felt he made a good decision by signing a two-year, 28 million contract with the Nationals. It marks the second time in his career that  Soriano goes into a season as the closer. The last time he went into a season as the closer was in 2010 when he was with the Rays. That year, Soriano had his best season, saving 45 games with a 1.73 ERA.

“I think I made a good decision with my [agent] to come here,” Soriano said. “Everybody is young. We have a good team. I come here and see what happens the next two weeks. I want to be comfortable with everybody here and win this year.

“Now I’m given the opportunity to be the closer. I’m happy with that. I want to win. That’s all I’m here for.”

Soriano had one of his best seasons in 2012, posting a 2.26 ERA with 42 saves for the Yankees, taking over closer duties after Mariano Rivera tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in early May. Soriano opted out of his contract with New York after he learned that Rivera was going to come back for the 2013 season. Soriano did not want to be a setup man.

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