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Soriano & Mariano: Setup and shut down

Rays pitcher Rafael Soriano throws against the Texas

Rays pitcher Rafael Soriano throws against the Texas Rangers during Game 4 of the ALDS in Arlington, Texas. (Oct. 10, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

If the team with the best bullpen wins, the Yankees just became the best team. The expected addition of Rafael Soriano makes the Yankees relevant again.

It does not help the  thin starting rotation, but it lessens the load placed on each starter. This time, the quality innings will be counted by the relievers. Especially the ones thrown in the eighth and ninth innings by Soriano and Mariano Rivera. 

The starters still need to finagle five or six innings. After that, the relievers take over and manager Joe Girardi will have plenty of mix and match opportunities with lefthanders Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan along with David Robertson and righty Joba Chamberlain, who failed as the set up man to Rivera.

Chamberlain can try to make a living in the somewhat less pressurized role of setting up the set up man. That is assuming he is not again tried out as a starter if the Yankees decide they can't stomach Sergio Mitre or whomever else gets a shot at the back end of the rotation.  General manager Brian Cashman has said that Chamberlain will not be a starter, but he also said he would not  give up a first round pick to sign Soriano.

Who knew he could have been negotiating for Soriano when he said that? Or, as is being suggested in some quarters, ownership stepped in wanted the reliever regardless of Cashman's stance.

Soriano will own the eighth inning—he’d better for over $10 million a year—before Rivera takes over. And if Rivera has an injury, Soriano is well prepared for the closer role.

Or so it would seem. Soriano is not quite Joakim Soria, the 26-year-old closer on the Royals who has averaged 38 saves in his first four seasons. Soriano was an outfielder when Seattle signed him in 1966. By 2004, he sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery.

Soriano was traded to the Braves in the winter of 2006 and had his first big season in 2009, when he recorded 27 saves. The Braves traded him to Tampa Bay, where he became the league leader in saves with 45 last season. He also had a 1.73 ERA. In nine seasons, he is 11-20 with 88 saves and a 2.73 earned run average.

When he’s on, Soriano’s fastball can reach the high 90s. Last August, he struck out the side on nine pitches in a game against the Angels.

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