ST. PETERSBURG — Though it hasn't been pretty, Rays closer Rafael Soriano has survived the past two nights.
Soriano, 30, was acquired in the offseason from the Braves (and signed to a $7.25 million deal) to solidify the back end of the bullpen and become a big piece in getting Tampa Bay back to the playoffs. And while Soriano went through some Troy Percival-like adventures in his first two games as a Ray, he has a win and a save to show for it.
Soriano has shown a sense of calm that has teammates feeling he'll get plenty more.
"He's not as sharp as he can be, I know that," manager Joe Maddon said. "But he has the confidence and the calm to work through stuff like that. That's the difference between guys that are closers and those that are not."
Soriano overcame a difficult, 26-pitch debut in Tuesday's opener against the Orioles, giving up two hits and a walk before getting Miguel Tejada to line out; he picked up the win after the Rays' walkoff heroics. On Wednesday, Soriano came in with a two-run lead, gave up a run, then stranded the tying run on third when Brian Roberts flew out, earning the save.
Soriano said he made a few mistakes in the two games, but he will make the necessary adjustments. He said he feels good physically but knows there will be nights where things don't go smoothly. "Things are going to happen, it could be early (in the season) or late," Soriano said. "But to me, you do it early now, and later, it'd be perfect."
Soriano, who had 27 saves in 31 chances for the Braves last season, is getting used to a new league, and is coming off a spring in which he had his typical light workload. Though he threw a combined 44 pitches the past two games, he said he'll take the ball tonight if needed.
"It doesn't need to be pretty," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "You look at everything in this game, you get a broken-bat single for an RBI — it ain't pretty, but it gets the job done.
"As long as he keeps doing it, I don't care how he gets it done."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org