Cubs agree to deal with reliever Soriano
Right-hander has recorded 117 career saves
DETROIT -- Manager Joe Maddon wants to talk to his former closer, Rafael Soriano, before deciding what role will best suit the 35-year-old right-hander, who signed a Minor League contract on Tuesday.
Soriano was to report to the Cubs' academy in the Dominican Republic and needs to complete some paperwork first. There is no timetable for when he would arrive in the U.S.
"Just let him pitch and throw down there," Maddon said. "Once he gets up to the States, we'll have a better understanding. I'm looking forward to talking to him -- he'll be honest with me."
Last year, Soriano went 4-1 with 32 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 64 relief appearances for the Nationals. He lost the closer's job in the second half of the season when he posted a 6.48 ERA in 27 games. In the first half, he saved 22 of 24 games and compiled a 0.97 ERA, giving up four earned runs over 37 innings.
Cubs relievers rank 10th in the National League with a 3.68 ERA, and they have 14 saves in 22 opportunities. In the last three wins over the Nationals, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Jason Motte each picked up a save. Rondon, who began the season as the closer, went 2-0 in May with a 4.38 ERA in 12 games, saving five of seven.
Entering Tuesday's Interleague series opener vs. the Tigers, Maddon said his closer would be determined by matchups.
"My biggest concern is getting Hector's confidence back, and I thought he looked really good," Maddon said. "Once that arrives, we might do something differently. He felt good the other day and he pitched. He was really pleased."
Over a 13-year career, Soriano has pitched for the Mariners (2002-06), Braves (2007-09), Rays (2010), Yankees (2011-12) and Nats (2013-14). He primarily served as a setup man early in his career before saving 27 games for the Braves in 2009, then went on to record a career-high 45 saves for Maddon and the Rays in 2010, when he was named an All-Star.
"He's a really good pitcher," Maddon said. "He sees things. He's a closer, but he's not out there just throwing. He really knows how to pitch. I would like to believe he could impart his pitching wisdom on a lot of guys on how to pitch to hitters and how to pick your poison."
After an outing, Maddon and Soriano would talk, and Soriano was always able to tell Maddon what he was thinking going into a game.
"I was always impressed with what he saw from the bullpen," Maddon said. "Beyond his ability to help us pitch and win games, he's really good at observing and knowing what to do versus hitters. I'd like to believe that will be part of his value."
Could he close for the Cubs?
"I have no idea," Maddon said. "I honest to God don't. I just want him to be well. I have no idea what he's going to look like."
According to reports, Soriano will earn a pro-rated portion of a $4.1 million base salary and can add up to $4 million in incentives, which will be based on games finished and appearances.
• Maddon did talk to Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, about possible roster moves prior to Tuesday's game. One topic was the possibility of last year's No. 1 Draft pick, Kyle Schwarber, being called up to be the designated hitter.
It's not going to happen.
"Everybody was talking about it -- I was just playing along," Maddon said. "I think the kid is going to be a really good Major League baseball player. I also like the guys who are here. ... I'm good with the lineup as it is now."
Catcher Miguel Montero served as the designated hitter on Tuesday against the Tigers.
• Maddon managed Tampa Bay, and owns a restaurant in the area. But he's now the Cubs' manager. So wth the Lightning playing the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, is he torn?
"I come from Switzerland," he quipped. "I was born and raised in Geneva."