Soriano taking break as closer to fix his slider
Williams keeping his ninth-inning options open pending the matchups
WASHINGTON -- Nationals closer Rafael Soriano will take two days off and then have a bullpen session by Monday to work on his mechanics. He is trying to fix his slider, which has given him problems after the All-Star break.
During the two days off, Soriano will look at video, look at his release point and where his arm angle is, especially when he throws the slider. Soriano needs to keep the slider down to be successful.
Manager Matt Williams didn't give a timetable as to when Soriano would get his job back, but when he starts playing games again, the Nats most likely will give him a less-demanding role.
"It's like a batter's slump. Just because you feel it in the cage, it doesn't mean it's going to work in the game," Williams said before Saturday's game against the Phillies. "There are options where we can pitch him in some situations, when he's working on all of his mechanical things. He will have a softer landing, so he can get some confidence. So we'll see how it goes."
With Soriano out for a couple of days, Williams declined to name a closer. Williams said it depends on the matchup. Aaron Barrett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have closer's experience.
"It depends on [opposing] team, depends on who is used in other roles and how we want to do it during the course of the game," Williams said. "There is no one in particular we are going to announce as the closer for the next few days. Good thing is, we have guys with experience and any of them can [do it]. We'll see how the game unfolds."
Soriano took the news from Williams well. Soriano believed he was throwing a quality slider, but when he looked at video, it was a different story.
"We had good communication. That's what I like about him," Soriano said. "He said something to me, I listened. I really think it would be best for the team. ... When you think you are good, you check the video, it's so different."
After having an All-Star caliber first half, Soriano has been hit hard after the break, saving nine games with a 6.98 ERA, while opponents are hitting .325 against him.
Soriano's slump comes at a bad time. The Nationals are in a pennant race and were seven games ahead of the Braves in the National League East entering Saturday's action, with their magic number at 16. However, general manager Mike Rizzo is not overly concerned about Soriano's slump.
"It would concern me more if we felt there was something drastically wrong with Soriano and if we didn't have the depth at that position that we have," Rizzo said.
In Friday night's 9-8 loss to the Phillies, Soriano entered the game in the ninth inning and allowed home runs to Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere. Both pitches came on sliders.