Rafael Soriano had a solid season in 2013 with the Washington Nationals, though it was not without its blemishes as Soriano saved 43 games in 49 chances. Soriano, 34, was pulled from certain situations, mostly ones in which he was not closing, and it was pretty obvious that his attitude was different when he was not closing.
Soriano’s strikeout numbers were also down drastically from his 2012 season as he only struck out 51 batters in 66.2 IP in 2013, though his walk numbers were also down. Needless to say, some of Soriano’s peripheral stats were alarming, especially based on how much the Nationals are paying him.
This season could be very different however. According to reports, Soriano has arrived at Nationals camp this past weekend 10 pounds lighter than his first season in D.C., and also spoke of how his first season really ate at him because of his sporadic bouts of ineffectiveness. Soriano is also coming off of a year with a career-high 8.8 H/9 and career-low 6.89 K/9, and this really seemed to bother him.
So, Soriano started his offseason workouts a month earlier than he normally does, ate better and lost some weight. This is also a contract year for Soriano and he needs 62 games finished to trigger an option for 2015, though the Nationals are likely not to allow him to hit that milestone this season.
Regardless of Soriano’s motivations which he says are for himself, this leaner, more motivated Soriano is definitely a plus for the Nationals regardless of whether or not he goes by his own schedule or not. A leaner Soriano is in effect a better Soriano, at least in theory, since he had a lot of problems with his breaking ball in 2013. It was flat and lazy at times, and the effects were obvious based on his hits being up and his strikeouts being down.
This is most likely Soriano’s final year with the Nationals, but he has already laid the groundwork to make it one to remember.