Rafael Soriano making strides, but won’t reclaim closer’s role yet

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Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano has made some mechanical adjustments, which he has put to the test in a couple of low-leverage situations recently. The 34-year-old said of the changes, “Everything is good. I’m feeling good,” per a report from James Wagner of the Washington Post.

Soriano blew his seventh save of the season on September 5 at home against the Phillies, which included a rare Ben Revere home run. Manager Matt Williams demoted Soriano from the closer’s role so that he could focus on 1) standing taller on the mound; 2) keep his front shoulder closed; and 3) staying low in the strike zone. In his latest two appearances, he’s been able to do just that and has had better results, striking out two in the process.

For now, though, the Nationals plan to stick with Drew Storen in the closer’s role. Storen has notched the save in each of his four games since Soriano’s demotion. In four innings, the right-hander has struck out six and allowed two hits while walking none.

MLBPA proposes 114-game season, playoff expansion to MLB

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted a proposal to the league concerning the 2020 season. The proposal includes a 114-game season with an end date on October 31, playoff expansion for two years, the right for players to opt out of the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason were to be canceled.

Passan clarifies that among the players who choose to opt out, only those that are considered “high risk” would still receive their salaries. The others would simply receive service time. The union also proposed that the players receive a non-refundable $100 million sum advance during what would essentially be Spring Training 2.

If the regular season were to begin in early July, as has often been mentioned as the target, that would give the league four months to cram in 114 games. There would have to be occasional double-headers, or the players would have to be okay with few off-days. Nothing has been mentioned about division realignment or a geographically-oriented schedule, but those could potentially ease some of the burden.

Last week, the owners made their proposal to the union, suggesting a “sliding scale” salary structure. The union did not like that suggestion. Players were very vocal about it, including on social media as Max Scherzer — one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee — made a public statement. The owners will soon respond to the union’s proposal. They almost certainly won’t be happy with many of the details, but the two sides can perhaps find a starting point and bridge the gap. As the calendar turns to June, time is running out for the two sides to hammer out an agreement on what a 2020 season will look like.