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Rafael Soriano came over in one of the most lopsided trades of the 2006 off-season. From the second it happened, the deal with Bill Bavasi and the Mariners front office was referred to a coup among other things by John Schuerholz. The Braves ex-GM sent left-handed starter Horacio Ramirez to Seattle for the Dominican right-handed reliever, who had posted a 2.25 ERA in '06. While Soriano established himself as one of the more dominating NL relievers for most of the year, Ramirez pitched only 98 innings over 20 starts with a 7.16 ERA and more walks than strikeouts. Now, as the Braves look to next year, they can again be confident in a dominant power arm at the end of the game.
Last year, Soriano's '06 season was ended with a shot to the head off the bat of Vlad Guerrero. He struggled in winter ball with his control and again in spring training without the ability to locate his pitches within the strike zone. That carried over into the regular season with five walks in 12.1 innings and a 4.38 ERA. Those concerns quickly went away when Soriano took over the primary closers role due to a Bob Wickman injury. In May, the right-hander converted all four of his save opportunities with a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings. Soriano allowed only two hits and one walk while striking out 13. However, in June, Soriano's season started going down hill. He just could not keep his pitches down, likely an effect of overwork and allowed nine homers over the next two and a half months. The last half of August, he started showing his former self allowing no runs or walks and it carried over into September, after he had permanently replaced Bob Wickman. Soriano had three saves in three chances with a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings. He allowed only four hits and three walks while striking out 17.
The reputation that Soriano quickly built up in a Braves uniform was that he performed in pressure situations. Until his home run struggles, Soriano was almost a sure thing whenever the game was close, allowing his runs only when it was a blow out. That comes from a closer mentality and is something that is very valuable when combined with his dominant repertoire. I don't really have any worries about Soriano's ability to close next season. The only worry I have is about his health, which over the years has not been all that great. Mike Gonzalez will be back mid-season though and Peter Moylan showed his was a perfectly good candidate to close this past year so that worry is not nearly as great as it would have been without a great supporting cast. Soriano is a lock for the pen next year.