Encouraging signs from Soriano

Encouraging signs from Soriano

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Rafael Soriano surrendered a two-run homer to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Wednesday night, but the Braves' closer still provided some encouragement for his skipper.

"He was free and easy, and he struck out [Lance] Berkman, who is hard to strike out," manager Bobby Cox said. "I was happy to see that."

Because he experienced some discomfort above his right elbow at the beginning of this month, Soriano was making just his second Grapefruit League appearance. During his debut, on Saturday against the Rays, he tossed a scoreless inning that included a few 94-mph fastballs.

Cox thought that the veteran right-handed reliever, who is entering a season as a closer for the first time, had even better velocity on Wednesday. Soriano's lone mistake came when Hunter Pence took advantage of a misplaced 1-2 fastball and directed it over the center-field wall for a two-run homer.

Soriano rebounded to end the inning with the strikeout of Berkman. He'd started the inning with a strikeout of Brad Ausmus.

"Soriano had two punchouts in an inning, which is good, and then he laid a ball in there to Pence," Cox said.

Cox said Soriano looks healthy and that the club has never even hinted that they would start the season without him as their closer.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.