When the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano as a free agent before the 2011 season, Brian Cashman made the unusual choice at the press conference announcing the deal.
Normally, general managers say a few positive things at such events and then turn things over to the newly signed player but Cashman cut in a different direction. He said that ownership went over his head to make the deal with Soriano and that he wouldn't have done it if he'd been left to his own devices.
Cashman was telling the truth then and he'd be telling the truth now if he said that he was very happy to have Soriano on the roster. With the news that David Robertson is hitting the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, an injury that has kept some players out for long stretches in recent years.
The Yankees obviously hope that Robertson will be back in a few weeks and that he'll resume firing fastballs past hitters when he does, but they should count themselves lucky that losing Robertson so soon after losing Mariano Rivera (and with Joba Chamberlain already out) doesn't completely sink their bullpen.
Soriano has pitched in high-leverage roles for a long time and he's done a good job of doing it. He might not be Rivera or Robertson, but he's not a bad substitute for a team that's not really in position to kick away good starts because their bullpen is depleted at the moment.
Tuesday night's 5-2 loss -- a forgettable affair marked by mediocre CC Sabathia and a lineup consumed with hitting into double plays -- dropped the Yankees to 20-16, about equally between the first-place teams and the Red Sox in last place. It's too early to worry all that much about placement in the division, but spinning too far down the standings with this kind of competition is going to make life very difficult the rest of the way.
The bullpen was a weapon for the team when the year got underway and it can't stop being one in the face of injuries. Everyone left out there has to continue pitching well for that to happen, but Soriano will be the marquee guy charged with the big moments which means he'll also be the guy to get flamed if things go south.
He's been there before for teams with championship aspirations, something that wasn't enough to recommend him to Cashman way back when. Now it might just be the team's saving grace and we'll look at future attempts to gild the lily a little bit differently in light of Soriano's rapid rise up the bullpen hierarchy.