VIERA, Fla. — When Rafael Soriano walked into the Nationals’ clubhouse Wednesday morning, shortstop Ian Desmond began to question him on what he’d be offering up in his live batting practice session. Soriano’s answer boiled down to this: You want to see? Grab a bat.
So Desmond made his way over to the back field to face Soriano. When the right-hander walked out to the mound, Desmond asked him if he wanted him to swing.
“Let’s go,” Soriano said. “I thought you’re going to bring it?”
Soriano came away pleased from his first session facing hitters since the end of the New York Yankees’ playoff run last October. He threw at about 60 percent effort, he said, in no rush to force himself to ready for a season that remains more than a month away.
Desmond, who joined Wilson Ramos, Will Rhymes and Jhonatan Solano in hitting off Soriano, connected for a few line drives. That pleased Soriano as well.
“That’s good,” Soriano said. “I want him to be ready for the season.”
Soriano may throw one more live batting practice session before he gets into a spring game, but the Nationals have worked with him to spread his eight planned appearances out over the remaining 30 Grapefruit League games.
He will pitch on back-to-back days once, near the end of the spring.
His first appearance likely won’t be until March 5 against the Houston Astros, manager Davey Johnson said, and Soriano would prefer not to face teams in the Nationals’ division because he doesn’t want them to get too many looks at him before the season begins. With the Nationals playing the Mets, Marlins and Braves often during the spring, that’s a tough task.
Johnson said he had no problem with Soriano’s request to avoid other NL East teams and called it “pretty common.” He also recalled Sandy Koufax avoiding American League clubs during spring training, instead preferring to face only NL teams so he could get to know the hitters.
“I knew about that because I’d face (Don) Drysdale in the spring, (Claude) Osteen, all those guys, but never Koufax,” Johnson said. “First time I saw him was in the World Series in ‘66. The stuff he was featuring it wouldn’t have mattered who he was facing.”