It sounds like New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has decided who will set up Mariano Rivera when Rafael Soriano returns to the team and it looks like Dave Robertson, who replaced Soriano, will get to keep the job. Soriano is expected to return to the club sometime this week after being put on the DL almost two months ago.
This will be the second demotion for Soriano since signing with the Yankees last winter. Don't expect the surly pitcher to be happy. First, he took a back seat to Mariano Rivera and now a rumble seat to Robertson.
The 26 year-old righthander may have stumbled a little in today's 7-5 victory over the Oakland A's, but over the last two months Robertson has been solid. He is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA. But the stellar stats hide a lot of nail-biting drama when Robertson is on the mound.
Robertson is the Yankees version of the Cardiac Kid. In the 40 innings he has pitched, Robertson's bi-polar statistics include allowing 29 hits and 26 walks combined with an unbelievable 63 strikeouts of opposing hitters.
The tightrope-walking Robertson has allowed only two earned runs over his last 26 appearances and in 21 1/3 innings on the road has not given up a single run. An amazing achievement, considering it always looks like the bases are filled when Robertson is staring down a batter.
On that note, the lanky hurler struck out a batter for the third out with the bases loaded for a record nine times in a row against the A's on Saturday. The previous record of eight rally-whiffers was held by former Yankee Jeff Nelson when he was with the Seattle Mariners in 1995.
Robertson stumbled a bit, during a downpour, in Sunday's 7-5 win against the A's. He was pulled with two outs in the eighth after his curve ball wasn't tailing and he gave up a couple of earned runs.
When asked about his bases-loaded/strikeout record, Robertson shook his head and told the YES Network, "I can't stop doing that."
Whether or not your heart can handle Robertson's high-wire act, he's getting the job done.
Soriano, on the other hand, will have to earn back his old set-up spot. The brooding righthander has already gone from closer to set-up this season. There's really no shame there when it's behind Rivera, but coming back to Yankee Stadium as a middle reliever has to sting.
Before going on the DL on May 27, Soriano was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA.
The $35 million rightie pitched the seventh inning for Triple-A Scranton today. Soriano gave up a lead-off home run before retiring the next three batters. On Thursday, he threw 16 pitches for Class-A Tampa. He gave up one run on two hits. Not exactly reassuring stuff.
Girardi said Soriano could probably pitch Monday as well.
"We're looking at that," Girardi told the YES Network. "I wanted to see how he feels today. If he feels good after today and tomorrow, it is very possible he would pitch Monday."
In any case, Girardi said he was going with the hot hand and keeping Robertson as Rivera's set-up man.
On using Soriano as a seventh inning relief pitcher when he returns, Girardi used caution in his selection process and will cope with the eighth-inning conundrum later.
"It's important to get Soriano healthy first," he said. "If he's healthy, it's a good problem."