Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yankees let one slip away, Soriano has lesson to learn

Tonight we learned once again that unless it's an injury, roster move, or knee-slappingly hilarious DUI arrest, everything you read in spring training means nothing.

Take Rafael Soriano for instance. When Brian Cashman the Yankees signed the reliever away from the Rays in January, he brought with him a dominant recent resume but also a reputation for being something of, well, a dick.

We heard the whispers. That he was sullen, withdrawn, unable or unwilling to buy into the idea of team — essentially the exact type of player the Yankees purged from their clubhouse during the rise of the dynasty.

"Hey Mel Hall, you like making Bernie Williams cry because he wears funny-looking glasses? Have fun in Japan, champ."

Don't let the crooked hat and country boy gimmick you see on Yankeeography fool you. Gene Michael was a stone cold assassin.

The Yankees denied the rumors Soriano was a poor character guy, and to make sure of it, they put the $35-million setup man's locker right next to Mariano Rivera. It was as if they believed Soriano would go from moody outcast to noble champion by process of osmosis.

It made for a lot of spring training copy for the beat guys, but what was dubious then is laughable now. After Soriano helped kick away a sure win for CC Sabathia and the Yankees on Tuesday night, he was nowhere to be found in the clubhouse afterward. That's right — the Yankees' multi-million dollar closer-in-wait couldn't bring himself to face the media ... on April 5.

If he's pulling this crap now, can you even imagine how he'll handle failure when the games mean something? (Must. Ignore. Terrible. Feeling. Of. Dread.)

It was a bad night for several Yankees. An uncomfortable-looking Derek Jeter was blown away by a fresh-off-Tommy-John Joe Nathan to end the game. Dave Robertson couldn't pick up Soriano, and Nick Swisher couldn't pick up Robertson, misplaying Delmon Young's blooper into a three-run double. Boone Logan pitched scared, hanging the Yankees in the process.

And then there was Joe Girardi. The manager stood by his decision to pull a cruising Sabathia after seven scoreless innings and 104 pitches, plugging in Soriano despite the Yankees holding a four-run lead at the time.

It was a curious decision to use Soriano in that spot, and a fairly clear sign Girardi isn't quite sure how to handle the most expensive non-closer in bullpen history just yet.

In a non-save, non-hold situation, the logical move would've been to let Robertson start the inning. After all, if you're not going to give Robertson the seventh-inning job, and you won't let him enter a 4-0 game in the eighth inning, then why exactly do you have David Robertson?

Girardi was nonplussed by the insinuation Soriano shouldn't have been in the game or isn't wired to enter non-save situations.

“Soriano is my eighth-inning guy,” the manager said, according to the LoHud Blog. “By no means is a four-run game in the bag, as we just saw.”

Well, you're kind of missing the point Joe ... but hell ... forget it. Better these losses happen now than September or later. Turn the page and move on. And if anyone sees a millionaire setup man moping around the city tonight, please tell him that facing the music is part of the job here.

You ain't at the Trop no more, kid.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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