2/15/2013 6:01 P.M. ET
Soriano obtains visa, will report this weekend
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals closer Rafael Soriano will not be absent for long. He was able to obtain his visa in the Dominican Republic on Friday morning and will likely report to Nats camp on Saturday, according to manager Davey Johnson. Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report this past Wednesday.
"The word I got was that they stamped his visa this morning. I don't know what the travel plans are, but I imagine that he will be here sometime tomorrow," Johnson said.
"I'm not really worried about him, because he's a veteran pitcher. He knows what he needs to do to get ready. I've been used to dealing with that kinda stuff -- visa problems. They've got good weather down there, I'm sure he's not just sitting around watching TV. I'm sure he'll come to camp in good shape. That's the least of my worries."
Soriano had one of his best seasons in 2012, posting a 2.26 ERA with 42 saves for the Yankees, taking over closer duties after Mariano Rivera tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in early May. Soriano opted out of his contract with New York after he learned that Rivera was going to come back for the 2013 season. Soriano did not want to be a setup man.
Soriano, who joins a bullpen that already includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, has a 2.78 career ERA in 11 seasons spent with the Mariners, Braves, Rays and Yankees. The Nats signed Soriano after their bullpen struggled during last year's National League Division Series against the Cardinals, allowing 16 earned runs in five games.
Storen, who finished the season as the closer, allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 9-7 loss in the decisive Game 5.
LaRoche disagrees with compensation Draft picks
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche arrived in camp Friday and acknowledged that baseball should eliminate the compensation Draft pick, which is attached to a free agent who is given a qualifying offer by the team he played with the previous year.
LaRoche, 33, turned down the Nationals' one-year, $13.3 million offer -- the average of the previous year's top 125 salaries. The Nationals would have received a compensation pick between the first and second round of the 2013 Draft, if LaRoche signed with another team.
The signing team would give up its first-round selection, though the top 10 picks of the Draft are protected, so any team holding a top-10 pick forfeits its second-round selection, if it signs a player who received a qualifying offer.
LaRoche acknowledged there were teams interested in his services, but they were not willing to surrender the Draft pick.
"Every week, … it was the same team we talked to a few times or new teams calling saying, 'Hey, we just want you to know we would love to do something, but we can't afford to give up that [Draft pick]. It's so frustrating," LaRoche said.
LaRoche ended up re-signing with the Nationals for two years and $24 million. There is a mutual option for a third season.
"It needs to be [eliminated]," LaRoche said about the compensation pick. "Not just for me. There were four or five of us really affected this year. I think in the future, you are going to have that scenario every year. They have to do something about it. If you had a less productive year, it would have been easy to get a longer-term deal or have more competition in negotiations. … It got to where I wanted to get back here. We worked it out. But the Draft pick did not help things."
Free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse is an example of a player who has struggled to sign with a Major League team because the compensation Draft pick is hanging over his head.
"It shows how important it is to get rid of that rule," LaRoche said. "I don't know if that was something the union granted, or they overlooked and didn't realize it could backfire the way it did, or if they were willing to take that risk. In talking with the union a little bit, I think they would love to take that back."
Zimmerman expects to be ready Opening Day
VIERA , Fla. -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman acknowledged that his surgically repaired right shoulder is not 100 percent, but he expects to be ready by Opening Day.
On Friday, Zimmerman was able to perform fielding drills and threw from 75 feet.
"We are obviously going to take it slow, but I've been hitting and throwing almost two-and-a-half weeks," Zimmerman said. "Just like anything when you first start to do something, it's going to be sore. You are going to get through good days and bad days. But there have been way more good days than bad days."
Despite having a bad shoulder last season, Zimmerman was productive at the plate, hitting .282 with 25 home runs and 95 RBIs. However, he had problems throwing the baseball. For example, he had an awkward, robotic throwing motion to first base.
"We went through some things last year. [The trainers] did a good job of getting me healthy enough to contribute," Zimmerman said. "Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't work, and it was frustrating for everyone involved, myself included. ...
"With the team that we had last year, there was no way [that I was going to take myself out of the game]. Obviously, sometimes it didn't look so good. It was probably the first time I felt uncomfortable on a baseball field at any time. We battled through it, and the training staff did a great job."
Manager Davey Johnson said he plans to start Zimmerman slowly. He probably will not play in any games for about three weeks. Zimmerman reiterated that he needs only 50 at-bats to get ready for the season.
"He is a smart guy, veteran player. He knows what his body can do and can't do," Johnson said of Zimmerman. "But I'm really pleased he had that procedure and talking [to the team doctor], he needed it. [Zimmerman is] excited about it. He volunteered to me that he is going to [have a regular throwing motion]."
Ramos improving behind plate
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was behind the plate during a bullpen session for the second day in a row. Unlike the previous day, Ramos' right knee didn't get tired, and he was able to hit without any problems.
Ramos played in only 25 games after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Reds last May. Manager Davey Johnson said Ramos most likely will not play until the second week into the Grapefruit League season.
Ramos is expected to start the season as the backup catcher behind Kurt Suzuki.
Marrero's roster chances are slim
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Chris Marrero played in only 53 Minor League games last year as a result of an injury sustained in the 2011 offseason. He tore his left hamstring reaching for a ball while playing for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Winter League.
Marrero is considered a backup first baseman, and the chances of him making the Nationals' Opening Day roster are slim, because Tyler Moore is expected to fill this role.
Marrero, a first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut in late 2011, hitting .248 with 10 RBIs and playing solid defense at first base. Manager Davey Johnson was hoping that Marrero could display more power the next season, but the hamstring injury prevented that.
"My heart goes out to him, because I thought he was getting his feet wet and I thought he did a good job," Johnson said. "Then, he had that severe hamstring injury [during winter ball] and basically lost most of the year."
Johnson plans to give Marrero a serious look during the start of Spring Training.
• Johnson said right-hander Dan Haren threw the ball well in his first bullpen session. Johnson told Haren not to peak too early.
• Reliever Henry Rodriguez has yet to throw off the mound because of a tight right bicep, but he played catch with right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, and one would have thought that Rodriguez was 100 percent.
"He was throwing [on flat ground] about 90 miles an hour," Johnson said. Rodriguez missed the postseason last October after having a bone spur removed from his right elbow.
• Johnson said right-hander Micah Owings will not pitch for the Nationals; he will play first base and the outfield. Owings is one of the best-hitting pitchers in the big leagues. He is a career .283 hitter with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage in 219 plate appearances.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.