Matt Williams talked early this spring about Rafael Soriano being one of the pitchers he didn't know too much about, but over the first few weeks of the 2014 campaign, he's gotten to know the Washington Nationals' 34-year-old closer. Williams told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he was impressed with Soriano and his approach and knowledge of hitters around the league.
"He understands the hitters," Williams said, "and who he is going to face and who he can potentially face during the course of that ninth inning and he's got a game plan. He's a veteran guy, he knows what he's doing. So, he's not afraid to pitch around somebody to get to another guy if he feels more confident about that guy, regardless whether it's a one-run game or not. He's got confidence."
Soriano is also willing to share what he knows.
Rookie right-hander Aaron Barrett talked today about a recent conversation with Soriano, during which he and the 13-year veteran talked about just what Williams was referring to in his comments.
"I was chatting with him yesterday," Barrett said. "We were just talking about situations, you know, 'Don't let the best hitter beat you', just stuff like that. If there's a base open and you're facing the three-hole guy, you've just gotta be smart. Pick who you want to [pitch] to.
"So far, [Soriano] has helped me a lot. And the whole bullpen really has too. Just situation-wise, what type of hitters, what to throw in what counts. So everyone in the whole bullpen has been very knowledgeable and has been very helpful for me transitioning from the minors to here. So it's been great."
Barrett returned to the majors on Tuesday after a 10-day stint at Triple-A Syracuse.
The Nationals called Blake Treinen up to help out the pen and provide a much-needed fresh arm, and Barrett said he understood the process, but was happy to be back in the majors.
"It's just kind of part of the game," he said today, after coming back up and getting right back to work with a scoreless inning of work in last night's loss to the Angels, which saw him strike out both Ian Stewart and Mike Trout.
"I can't really control it," Barrett said of the roster moves, "but we needed a fresh arm. So it was just one of those things where they brought Blake Treinen in, he's a starter, he was able to get our bullpen back to where we needed to get and at the same time, I go down for ten days, get my work in and I'm just glad they were able to call me back up."
So far this season, Matt Williams has shown a willingness to use Barrett in tight situations in spite of his limited experience at the major league level.
Barrett made his MLB debut in the ninth inning of a tie game on Opening Day. He came on to face Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a tight game in Miami. The opportunities, he said, have given him confidence that the Nats' skipper believes in his ability to get the outs they need.
"It definitely gives me confidence," Barrett said. "But knowing that, it doesn't matter what the score is, what inning it is for me, as a player I just know that my job is to go get guys out. Whether we're up, whether we're down, whether it's the sixth, whether it's the ninth, whatever inning, whatever situation, my job is to control what I can control and get guys out and everything else, it is what it is."
"Whatever the situation is, whatever the inning, the score, my job is to get guys out," Barrett said. "At the end of the day that's all I can do and that's going to give our team the best chance to win."
Barrett has made seven appearances so far, and he's thrown 5 1/3 scoreless, walking two (3.38 BB/9) and striking out eight (13.50 K/9). He said today, he was surprised as anyone when he made the Opening Day roster after throwing 10 2/3 scoreless in Spring Training.
"Honestly, in my mind I pictured myself getting the call-up through the year," he said, "middle of the year or whatever, so I never really envisioned myself making the team out of Spring Training would be basically my call-up. It's great. It's a blessing knowing that all the hard work has paid off. And I'm just really happy to be here."
• Dave Nichols from the District Sports Page and I both talked to Barrett today, here's the transcript of the entire interview: