Many, including YES Network announcers Michael Kay and Ken Singleton, were puzzled when the Yankees entered the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead and manager Joe Girardi turned the game over to Soriano. It has been assumed that David Robertson would be given the opportunity to redeem himself following a blown save against the Tampa Bay Rays last Wednesday. He pitched on Friday, retiring the two batters he faced on six pitches in a non-save situation. It made sense that “D-Rob” would get his chance to show why he had been selected to close for the New York Yankees in the first place.
As we would find out in the New York Yankees post-game interview with Girardi, Robertson has been dealing with soreness in his rib cage/ oblique area. The manager admitted he has not wanted to take a chance in aggravating the minor injury, and refused to use the 27 year-old until he has recovered.
In the meantime, Rafael Soriano has made the most of his opportunity. In this latest appearance, the 32 year-old former Tampa Bay closer threw 15 pitches (12 for strikes) as he retired 3 of the 4 batters he faced. The only hitter to reach base did so on a dropped pop fly by third baseman Eric Chavez.
In his only other opportunity as closer, Soriano threw 12 pitches (10 for strikes) in recording his first save against the Rays last Thursday. In that game he did yield one run, but it was the result of a runner reaching base on an infield single. That runner stole second base, and scored on back-to-back groundouts.
The advantage Rafael Soriano has over David Robertson in the competition for the closer role with the New York Yankees is his experience. As the ninth inning man for Tampa Bay in 2010, Soriano recorded 45 saves and had a 1.73 ERA – both impressive numbers for any reliever.
As long as he continues throwing the way he has over his last two appearances, it will be difficult for manager Girardi to move Soriano out of the closer role. In short, the New York Yankees may have stumbled upon the obvious – that Rafael Soriano will end up being exactly what he was signed to be – the successor to the great Mariano Rivera. That will leave David Robertson as the latest to suffer the fate of Wally Pipp.