Rafael Soriano #29 of the New York Yankees looks on...

Rafael Soriano #29 of the New York Yankees looks on in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. (April 5, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Rafael Soriano had barely walked into the clubhouse after Thursday's game when the masses began running toward his stall, preparing to get into position to hear what the reliever had to say.

Soriano took only a minute or so to put a shirt on before turning around and staring into the glaring light of the television cameras pointed directly at his head. He waited until someone broke the silence and began peppering him with inquiries. The Yankees' $35-million offseason acquisition had no reason to duck out on the media this time, not after bouncing back with a solid performance in a 4-3 victory over the Twins at the Stadium.

Soriano was roasted for sliding out of the clubhouse after Tuesday night's meltdown, when he was instrumental in coughing up a four-run lead in the eighth inning of the Yankees' 5-4, 10-inning loss. This time he breezed through a scoreless eighth, putting those ugly images behind him and leaving him pleased.

"Oh yeah, because they pay me and that is one of the things that I'm supposed to do when they give me the ball," Soriano said, later adding: "Everybody came to me [Wednesday] and said, 'Hey, bad day. It happens to everybody here, so come back tomorrow ready for the game.' "

Soriano's command was vastly improved, and he said his arm was looser than it was Tuesday. He yielded a weak leadoff single to Joe Mauer but retired Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome in succession on flyouts.

"I felt better when I threw in the sixth inning in the bullpen," Soriano said, "because I went outside early and played catch and I felt my arm more loose. So I felt better today."

"That's him," starter A.J. Burnett said. "He's going to have bad games, but he's such a competitor out there. You can see it. He takes every pitch so serious, and to bounce back the way he did was big for him."

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in as many tries. Except for a brief scare on Danny Valencia's long fly to leftfield, things were uneventful for Rivera, as usual.

"He put some good wood on the ball," Rivera said. "If Jimmy [Thome] hit the ball the way he hit it, the ball would've gone out. That one, I didn't think it had a chance."

But the Yankees have a good chance of having one of baseball's best bullpens if Soriano and Joba Chamberlain hold up their end of the bargain.

"It's a great bullpen," said Chamberlain, who allowed an unearned run in the seventh. "It's fun to be a part of with all the talent that we have there and all the matchups that we can create."

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