The New York Yankees should not have a Rafael Soriano problem Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox. That's because Soriano has pitched each of the last two days, and would seem unlikely to be called upon for a third straight day.
Right now that is a good thing. A very good thing. Because, make no mistake. The New York Yankees do have a Rafael Soriano problem. Maybe a very big Rafael Soriano problem.
Signed to a three-year, $35-million contract to be the Yankees' set-up man for, and eventual successor to, Mariano Rivera, Soriano has been awful thus far in 2011. Entering Tuesday night's game in the eighth inning, Soriano spit up a 2-1 lead by allowing a two-run home run to Chicago's Paul Konerko. He now has a 7.84 ERA through 11 appearances.
Kevin Kernan of the New York Post is screaming for Yankee Manager Joe Girardi to stop using Soriano in the eighth inning, at least for now. Girardi, though, plans to keep giving the ball to the 31-year-old right-hander, who was dominant a season ago when he saved a career-high 45 games for Tampa Bay.
"I still believe he's going to be very, very good for us," he said, "and he's going to play a huge role for us, he's just got off to a rough start."
Rough start? Well, I guess you can put it that way, Joe. There was Spring Training, where he pretty much demanded to set his own work schedule. He had the incident where he refused to talk to reporters after blowing a four-run lead. He has missed a few days with back issues. Most importantly, though, he has pitched horridly and often looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. I have even seen the dreaded Kyle Farnsworth comparison tossed out there. In fact, maybe I just made the comparison to Farnsworth-less.
Thing is, Girardi is probably also correct that Soriano will be very good for the Yankees -- eventually. He has to believe that and, I guess, so do I. What choice is there, really?
Soriano's history tells us that Soriano should be very good. He has had five consecutive seasons that have been very good, something few relievers can say. His last two seasons, in fact, have been elite. He pitched to a 0.802 WHIP a season ago, and allowed just 14 runs all year in 62 innings. He has allowed nine runs in 10.1 innings this season.
Is it adjusting to New York? Is it adjusting to setting up again after spending the last two seasons closing? Is it just an early-season struggle to find his rhythm?
Whatever it is, the Yankees need to hope he figures it out. Fast. Or the Yankees will end up with another Farnsworth on their hands.