"Right now, I feel 100 percent," said Soriano, who wasn't able to obtain his visa until Wednesday.
When the Braves acquired Soriano from the Mariners during the Winter Meetings, there was certainly reason to believe they'd added one of the game's top right-handed relievers. He limited opponents to a .204 batting average in 60 appearances last year and compiled a 2.25 ERA in his previous 123 2/3 innings as a reliever.
At the same time, there was also some concern about how he'd react when he began pitching again. When he went 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in eight appearances during the Dominican Winter League, there was even more reason to wonder if Guerrero's line drive would have a lasting effect.
But Soriano says his decreased velocity in those games was more a product of rust than fear. Before pitching his first game in winter ball, he'd thrown only five bullpen sessions and still was occasionally feeling dizzy.
By the time he completed his abbreviated winter season, Soriano says he was no longer feeling dizzy. Consequently, he has been able to spend the past two months going through his normal preseason preparations.
"I just wanted to do whatever I had to do to be ready for Spring Training," Soriano said.
Soriano wrapped up his pre-Spring Training preparations on Monday when he threw 20 pitches to Sammy Sosa in a live batting practice session.
When Soriano participates in his first workout with his new team on Friday, many of the Braves will be getting their first look at their new right-handed reliever. But T.J. Bohn, an outfielder who is fighting for a roster spot, won't be included among that group.
While in the Mariners' Minor League system the past few seasons, Bohn got numerous opportunities to watch the intimidating, hard-throwing right-handed reliever.
"He's a soft-spoken guy who has good stuff and is kind of cocky," Bohn said. "But that's what you want in a guy."
McBride, a starter? When Macay McBride watched his best friend Adam Wainwright close out last year's World Series, he dreamed of one day being in the same situation. Now it appears there is a chance that McBride could have a chance to follow a career path similar to Wainwright's.
This year, the Cardinals are planning to move Wainwright back into their starting rotation. And after watching McBride throw on Thursday, Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated there may be a day when McBride goes from the bullpen back into a starting role.
"We'll see what we need now," Cox said. "But with that kind of stuff ... man, he's shown unbelievable improvement. He's even hard for the catchers to catch."
McBride, who was the club's top draft choice in 2001 (one year after Wainwright had achieved the same honor), hasn't served as a starter since early in the 2005 season. For now, he's targeted to serve as one of Atlanta's left-handed relievers. But as he's continued to show greater control, he's at least made his manager wonder if his live fastball and knee-buckling curveball would be effective in a starting role.
"Now he's down in the strike zone with movement," Cox said. "He opened my eyes up and he wants to start."
In the 26 2/3 innings McBride completed before the All-Star break last year, he issued 20 walks and recorded just 15 strikeouts. After pitching coach Roger McDowell got him to start centering the follow-through on his delivery, the left-handed reliever had much better results. In 30 innings after the break, he recorded 31 strikeouts and issued just 12 walks.
"If he can just keep what he has now, he's going to be really hard to hit at," Cox said.
Diaz impressing: If Matt Diaz continues to punish the baseball the same way that he has during the first two days in camp, his defensive woes may not be a hindrance in his attempt to beat out Ryan Langerhans and Craig Wilson for playing time in left field.
"Diaz is eye-catching right now," Cox said. "Awesome. He's really caught everybody's eye. He's hitting the ball so hard."
Langerhans is certainly the best defensive player among this trio vying for the left-field job. And Wilson has the most power. But it might be impossible for Cox to keep Diaz's bat out of the lineup.
In 297 at-bats for the Braves last year, Diaz hit .327 with seven homers. After May 1, he hit an even more impressive .348.
Braves bits: After throwing his first live batting practice session on Wednesday, Mike Hampton awoke on Thursday without any significant discomfort. He'll likely throw a 10-minute bullpen session and live batting practice on Friday.
After battling a bad sinus infection earlier this week, utility infielder Chris Woodward was able to make his first appearance in camp on Thursday. He fielded some grounders, took batting practice and then was sent home to continue to rest.
Still having trouble obtaining his visa, Willy Aybar is the only player who hasn't yet reported to camp.