Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Soriano must prove he belongs in the 8th inning

Rafael Soriano is paid like a closer to set up games for a closer who is going to the Hall of Fame. But he is going to have to win back the 8th inning job if he really wants it.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't commit to Soriano being automatically given back his set-up job when he returns from the disabled list. Good for Girardi. Sure, Soriano is earning big bucks to be the 8th inning guy, but he was not very effective in that role before he went on the DL. In contrast, worthy All-Star David Robertson has pitched like a legitimate set-up guy (and a possible successor as closer whenever Mariano Rivera decides to hang up his spikes). Aside from some times when Robertson has made things interesting with a few too many walks, he has done the job beautifully and much better than Soriano did before his DL stint.

But Girardi also has to figure out a way to soothe Soriano's feelings, which may force the Yankees manager to give him extra points in the competition for the 8th inning job. Girardi knows that Robertson is a good guy and a team-first player and will do whatever his manager asks him to do without complaint. Soriano, on the other hand, may not go as quietly.

Soriano’s ego already took a beating in the offseason when he was forced to take a job as Rivera's set-up man and give up his closer role to get the money that he wanted. But Soriano probably still sees himself as a closer and while he was willing to settle for setting up for a future Hall of Famer and an iconic Yankee in Rivera, I doubt he will feel the same way about being Robertson's set-up man.

But Soriano must prove he belongs in the 8th inning. Nothing is guaranteed, especially not in Yankee land.

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