Soriano's first game in left field goes smoothly
NEW YORK -- Alfonso Soriano got through his major-league debut in the outfield without much difficulty Monday.
The Washington Nationals' reluctant left fielder handled four fly balls seamlessly in a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets, playing deep and coming in comfortably on most of the balls hit his way. He even drifted into foul territory to run down a fourth-inning drive in the corner.
Soriano did have one misstep at chilly Shea Stadium, breaking back and circling Xavier Nady's sixth-inning blooper before letting it drop in front of him for a single.
But all in all, not bad for a guy whose heart is at second base, where he was an American League All-Star the past four seasons before he was traded by the Texas Rangers to Washington in December.
And he had no complaints on Opening Day.
"Left field was great today," Soriano said. "No troubles."
The speedy slugger refused to play the outfield the first time Nationals manager Frank Robinson tried to put him there during spring training. Soriano finally agreed to the switch, but he played only 10 exhibition games in left after returning from the World Baseball Classic.
Washington moved him to the outfield because it already has an All-Star second baseman in Jose Vidro, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI against the Mets.
Soriano's first chance in left came on Jose Reyes' third-inning line drive, which he caught easily. He held a runner at third base with an accurate throw to the infield, too.
In general, he looked pretty relaxed out there, even turning around to gesture to fans in the bleachers.
Batting fifth in the lineup, Soriano went 2-for-3 with two singles, a walk and a stolen base -- on a 3-0 count to teammate Ryan Zimmerman. Soriano struck out looking against lefty Tom Glavine with runners at second and third, ending the top of the fifth inning.
Then, on first base after a leadoff single in the eighth, Soriano wound up in the middle of a game-turning play.
He took off on Zimmerman's double into the left-field corner. Even with nobody out, third base coach Tony Beasley waved him around as Cliff Floyd corralled the ball and relayed it to cutoff man Reyes.
The strong-armed shortstop wheeled and fired to catcher Paul Lo Duca as Soriano came barreling toward home. Waiting was a traffic jam. Zimmerman's bat was in the basepath.
"I saw the bat, so I slide with my hand," Soriano said. "If the bat is not there, I slide with my feet first."
Soriano appeared to touch the plate as Lo Duca grabbed the ball, dropped it for an instant and then retrieved it. With plate umpire Rick Reed up the line, first base ump Tim Tschida covered the plate. Lo Duca held the ball up and Tschida signaled out.
There was no argument from the Nationals, though replays showed Soriano should have been called safe because Lo Duca dropped the ball.
"I didn't see the ball come out," Soriano said. "I stuck my hand in there. It was a bang-bang play. I haven't seen the replay."
Robinson was asked what he saw.
"I saw the umpire call him out," the manager said. "I didn't see the ball come out. I didn't see the replay. I don't want to see it.
"He was out. That's what the umpire called. I don't have the advantage of replay," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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