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New Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano leaves workout with what team says is a chest cold

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays invested more than $7 million to bring in RHP Rafael Soriano to finish off games.

Then Soriano didn't make it to the end of Friday's opening spring training workout.

Soriano left the field with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield after stretching and playing catch, but only because he was suffering from what the team said was a chest cold.

Manager Joe Maddon said it was "no cause for concern," and that he was impressed Soriano came out on the field at all. Soriano said it was not a big deal, something he'd had before at the start of camp: "I think it was just too cold for me."

Besides, he said, he doesn't need much work in the spring, planning to wait until next week to throw his first bullpen session and working in only 7-8 games. He said he threw a few bullpen sessions before leaving the Dominican Republic and felt "great."

Maddon said he had no problem with Soriano, 30, setting his own schedule. "I just want to go with what he's done in the past to get ready," he said.

NO BRANYAN: Free agent OF/1B Russell Branyan turned down an offer from the Rays for the promise of more playing time with the Indians, agreeing to what ESPN reported was a one-year, $2 million deal with a $5 million 2011 option. The Rays, intrigued by his lefty power at a bargain price, were looking at him for what appeared to be a part-time role.

NAVI UPDATE: C Dioner Navarro said the lawsuit filed by his former agents, Tampa-based Startrust, to recover fees, expenses and money loaned to his wife dating to 2005 will not be a distraction.

"It will be taken care of," Navarro said. "I don't want to be stressing about anything. … It was a long journey, a beautiful journey, but everything gets to an end. I felt it was time we went our separate ways. …

"There are no hard feelings. I really appreciate everything they did for me, and they did it well."

Navarro, fully recovered from offseason surgery on a nerve in his left elbow, said he realizes the importance of bouncing back from his poor 2009 season.

"I messed up last year," he said. "They gave me another opportunity, I don't want to mess this up.

"I'm pretty sure this year is going to be the biggest year of my career. I think it all depends on what I do this year if I get a long-term contract or not. You guys know this is the place I want to be, this is the place I want to play for the rest of my career."

FIRST IMPRESSION: Maddon said he was pleased with the conditioning and attitude of the 35 pitchers and catchers. … His preworkout address was essentially that to get back to the playoffs, it's imperative they do the little things better. … Among Maddon's highlights Friday was seeing prospect RHP Jeremy Hellickson throw for the first time. "Easy arm and the ball comes out hot," he said.

Miscellany: Joining the early reporting position players were INF Reid Brignac, OF Fernando Perez and nonroster infielders J.J. Furmaniak and Chris Richard. … INF Joe Dillon worked out with the catchers, an experiment first talked about last year. … Nonroster RHP Joaquin Benoit, trying to come back after missing 2009 because of shoulder surgery, threw "easily without any kind of hesitation," Maddon said.

New Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano leaves workout with what team says is a chest cold 02/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 12:58pm]

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