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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yankees can afford to fix Soriano mess

The deep-pocketed Yankees can afford a $35-million disaster,

The deep-pocketed Yankees can afford a $35-million disaster, if that's what pitcher Rafael Soriano turns out to be. (May 24, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

A confidant of Rafael Soriano said Tuesday night that the reliever is "confident" the elbow soreness that is sending him to see a leading orthopedic surgeon is not as serious as when he needed season-ending surgery in 2008.

Soriano knows elbow soreness. But only time and Dr. James Andrews will tell if it's wishful thinking on Soriano's part or an accurate sense of what his body is telling him.

Soriano's time with the Yankees has been, to put it mildly, a disaster, with a 5.40 ERA and a personality seemingly more suited to Antarctica than New York.

But if there's an organization that can afford to come up snake-eyes on a $35-million roll of the dice for a setup man, it's this one.

The Yankees have one big advantage over every other team, and it's not a genius front office or the interlocking NY or John Sterling's home run calls.

It's money. Lots of it. Your money if you're a Yankees fan and buy tickets at Broadway show prices.

Even if Soriano turns out to be a Carl Pavano-like bust, the Yankees' owners should be applauded for putting your money back into the team.

Want to debate the wisdom of signing Soriano? Go ahead. It's an old debate; no doubt some will take Tuesday's news as confirmation that Brian Cashman was right, that the Yankees shouldn't have signed Soriano at the behest of owner Hal Steinbrenner.

But Cashman's objections were mostly philosophical, not medical. Spending more than $10 million a season on a setup man and also giving up a high draft pick is not in the general manager's DNA.

This doesn't mean he was right. At the time, the Yankees needed pitching of any stripe and Soriano was there for the plucking. The dream of a lockdown bullpen featuring Soriano (and Mariano) was worth giving Soriano one of those oversized Yankees checks you sometimes see on the field before games -- even if surgery is necessary and Soriano's salary is flushed down the drain along with Pedro Feliciano's and Kei Igawa's.

Yes, Kei Igawa is still in the Yankees system. Making $4 million to pitch for Double-A Trenton in the final year of his contract. By season's end, Igawa will have cost the Yankees more than $46 million in salary and posting fees. Unless he makes an unexpected return to the majors, his final Yankee stats will be 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 16 games.

Feliciano, of course, has yet to throw a pitch as a Yankee because of shoulder woes. He's making $4 million, too. Carlos Beltran might play for the Yankees before Feliciano does.

Soriano was not at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night to discuss the latest twist in his short but checkered Yankees career. It hardly came as a surprise when Joe Girardi announced before the game with the Blue Jays that the righthander was having a second MRI after shutting down a throwing session on Monday.

"I'm more concerned now because I really thought that we were going to have him getting ready to possibly go out on a rehab assignment shortly," Girardi said. "That doesn't seem to be the case."

It was less than two hours later that a team public relations official told reporters Soriano was going to Pensacola, Fla., Wednesday to see Dr. Andrews. Never a good trip for a pitcher or a violinist.

But don't play any sad songs for the Yankees. If Soriano needs surgery, they'll probably just go out and flex their monetary muscles again and bring in somebody else. They can afford it. They're not the Mets.


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