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New closer Soriano reports to Nationals camp

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo introduced Rafael Soriano at a news conference in January.

Rafael Soriano had planned to arrive early in camp with the Washington Nationals. He was delayed by visa issues, but the team's new closer showed up Saturday in good shape and ready to get to work.

"I want to win," Soriano said. "That's what I'm here for."

The Nationals, who already have three pitchers who closed for them at different points last season, signed Soriano to a $28 million, two-year contract in January.

He walked into the clubhouse Saturday and received a hug from starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and a welcome-to-Viera greeting from pitching coach Steve McCatty.

"Soriano is a great pitcher," Gonzalez said. "I think the guy comes in and he brings a presence."

Though he has 132 career saves, this is only the second time the 33-year-old Soriano has come to camp knowing he is expected to be his team's closer.

That was the case in 2010, when he saved 45 games for Tampa Bay before signing with the New York Yankees in 2011 to be the setup man for Mariano Rivera. When Rivera got hurt last season, Soriano took over the closer's role and had 42 saves.

Washington already had Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez (who is recovering from elbow surgery) on the roster, and all three spent time closing games last season.

Still, even Storen and Clippard agreed the move to sign Soriano will only strengthen the club.

"You can't really knock it, honestly," Storen said. "It's going to help our bullpen out, and you can never have too good a bullpen. When it comes down to it, everybody's going to be in big spots. It doesn't matter if it's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning."

Soriano, a Dominican Republic native, is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session for the Nationals on Monday. He told reporters he had been throwing bullpens and playing long toss at home while waiting for his visa to be approved so he could join what will be the fifth team he has played for in his career.

The fact that he can come in as the closer for the defending NL East champions only made the situation more exciting for him.

"To me, I was trying to find a team that needed help," Soriano said. "I think I made a good decision with my (agent) to come here. Everybody's young. (It's) a good team."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the right-hander appeared to be in good shape, but added he only had a brief conversation with Soriano, who told him he wanted to pitch back-to-back days at least once this spring.

Johnson is hoping Soriano will be ready for a lot of back-to-back days during the regular season, too.

"I haven't figured out how much he wears down, but I've got a lot of backups," Johnson said. "He was very nice. He said he likes to look around early in camp (with) a new club. He likes to keep his eyes open, feel his way (around)."

With so many quality relievers at his disposal, Johnson will have plenty of options in the late innings. That's not just a nice problem for a manager to have, it's also a good feeling for Washington's starting pitchers.

"We have a solid bullpen," Gonzalez said. "(Soriano) just made it a little more tighter. You can be rest assured if you have a short day, you know they're going to go in and put in the work for you.

"They're definitely going to clean up a lot of my messes this year. Hopefully, they do a great job for me."

NOTES: OF Jayson Werth reported to camp and had a wide-ranging discussion with reporters. Among the topics: He said his left wrist, which he broke last May, is still not as strong as it once was but it's feeling better. Werth, who came back to serve as the team's leadoff hitter late last season, said the Game 5 loss to St. Louis in the NL division series still weighs on his mind. "Probably not daily, but there are definitely times when it will pop in my head and I'll kick something, or cuss," he said. "When you get that close you can taste it and something like that happens, that's going to stick with you. It will probably stick with me until I die. That's OK. It's not a big deal. It's one of those things that drives you." ... Werth thinks the natural progression for young teammate Bryce Harper would be to play left field this season, though he acknowledged that one day it will be Harper in right field, with Werth moving to left. ... Werth, who came into the big leagues in 2002 before steroid testing with penalties began, said he didn't think Gonzalez was the sort of player to cheat. "I've seen a lot of things," Werth said. "I've seen people you could suspect could be, may be ... you maybe even know if they are (on steroids). I don't really feel like Gio would ever be a guy like that. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am." ... RHP Tyler Clippard missed the workout to fly to Indiana and celebrate the birthday of his 90-year-old grandmother. He is expected back Sunday, when the teams holds its first full-squad workout.

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