Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano, left, has told pitching coach Larry...

Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano, left, has told pitching coach Larry Rothschild he doesn't want to face AL East opponents during spring training. (Mar. 4, 2011) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rafael Soriano came to the Yankees with a reputation for being a bit finicky. The Yankees now have seen that for themselves.

He was listed to throw against Baltimore Wednesday night. Then he wasn't. He instead pitched in a minor-league intrasquad game Thursday.

Turns out Soriano doesn't like to pitch against division foes during spring training because he doesn't want those opponents to get a look at his stuff. It's a practice he has maintained for years and told the Yankees about when they signed him as a free agent in January, he said.

"I don't know what happened [Wednesday],'' Soriano said. "I don't know why he gave me that game, because I told him already in New York I don't like to pitch with the team being in the division. I went to the pitching coach and I told him, 'What happened here?' He told me, 'You're going to face the hitters in the minor leagues.' "

Soriano was referring to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who said it was "not difficult" to remake the schedule to accommodate Soriano's preference.

"I think different guys like to do different things to get ready," Rothschild said. "I've seen it before. It's not unusual. A lot of times when I set my schedules, I set it up -- more with starters -- I set it up with relievers, too."

It's much more common for starting pitchers to avoid division foes than relievers. "I don't necessarily think that's catering to a guy," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it's understanding his desires and what he wants to do and how he wants to get ready and just not really changing the rules for him . . . It's just a minor adjustment."

Soriano has made three exhibition appearances, against Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Minnesota.

Unlike most players, who have no idea which team they will be facing during spring training, Soriano is intimately aware. His next outing, he said, will come Sunday when the Yankees face the Phillies. "After that, I'm going to throw back-to-back," he said. "That will be Pittsburgh and Houston. I think after that, I'll be ready to go."

Soriano said he faced one AL East opponent in spring training last year, when he was Tampa Bay's closer. He pitched against the Red Sox. Even though the hitters were mostly minor-leaguers that day, he still didn't like it.

"I pitched different," he said. "I don't like to pitch the same like I'm pitching in the regular season because it's not easy when you have to play like 18 games against the same team. I don't like that . . . The last four years, I don't do it."

Soriano led the American League in saves with 45 last year and was 17-for-19 in save opportunities in the division. He was perfect against Boston (5-for-5) and the Yankees (4-for-4) and blew one save each against Toronto (3-for-4) and Baltimore (5-for-6). His only other blown save was against Florida.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he supported Soriano's wishes when he had him. "I know Rafael well enough now, I could absolutely hear him saying that," he said. "And it's all about him just preparing for the season. I get it."

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