I had the pleasure of being at Yankee Stadium last night to enjoy CC Sabathia’s bulldog performance (thanks Titi China =). But I was completely shocked to see Rafael Soriano coming out of the bullpen to close CC’s gem in the 9th inning.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been steadfast in his desire to protect his relievers, refusing to let them pitch three days in a row, which should have meant both David Robertson and Rafael Soriano were unavailable. But there was Soriano on the mound in the 9th, as he was so many times for the Tampa Bay Rays before he left for the Yankees as a free agent.
Did Girardi simply not trust the game to a middle reliever such as Boone Logan? Perhaps. No doubt it was an important game, or as important as a baseball game can be in the second week of May, as the Yankees had to show the Rays that they can’t be pushed around in their own ballpark. But Girardi is a long-term thinker, choosing in the past to risk losing one game rather than making a move that could jeopardize the entire season for one of his players. I just hope that Girardi’s move to bring in Soriano instead of Robertson does not reflect a lack of confidence in Robertson’s ability to close.
Robertson has by far been the best reliever, other than Mariano Rivera, on the Yankees staff in recent years and he has earned a chance to succeed the great Mo. Sure, Robertson has had two very shaky outings in save situations since Mo went down, but anyone would be nervous trying to follow the greatest closer in baseball history.
D-Rob is never going be as smooth in the role as Mariano because no one else has Rivera’s poise. Robertson’s nickname is Houdini for good reason. He constantly finds himself in jams, sometimes of his own making, and then fascinates us with his ability to wiggle out of them. As Girardi jokingly said, Robertson doesn’t seem comfortable unless the bases are loaded.
But as Girardi also said, Mariano has been grooming Robertson to be his successor. And remember, Robertson probably thought he had another year to prepare for the closer’s job ahead of Mo’s supposedly impending retirement. All of a sudden, the kid was thrust into the spotlight. He just needs some time to shake the jitters and let his talent take over.