Yankees sticking with Rafael Soriano in eighth inning setup role despite 7.84 ERA

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Rafael Soriano had another ugly outing last night, blowing an eighth-inning lead and taking a loss while allowing two runs against the White Sox.

He now has a 7.84 ERA on the season, allowing nine runs in 10.1 innings, and has already walked eight batters after issuing a grand total of just 14 free passes in 62.1 innings last year.

However, manager Joe Girardi said after the game that the Yankees will stick with Soriano as their eighth-inning setup man in front of closer Mariano Rivera:

You’ve got to fight your way out of it. You keep using the guys. You get them on track. I haven’t lost any confidence in Rafael Soriano. This is a very good pitcher that just happened to give up a two-run homer. It’s a different animal here. Some guys come in and the transition is easy. Other guys, it can be difficult. I haven’t found the transition to be really difficult for him, I just think at times he hasn’t thrown great this year. I haven’t seen anything to tell me he can’t handle it.

I tend to agree with Girardi. Soriano has been a mess so far, but ultimately having a terrible 10-inning stretch doesn’t doom him for the entire season and he’s been too good for too long to think things won’t eventually get on track as long as he’s not pitching through some kind of an injury (his velocity is down compared to 2010, but only slightly).

Not only did Soriano save 45 games with a 1.73 ERA and .163 opponents’ batting average last season for the Rays, he has a 2.86 ERA in 405 career innings. This isn’t some mediocre pitcher who got lucky in a flukishly great season and is now coming back to down to earth. He’s one of the best, most dominant relievers of the past decade and is simply having an awful first month in New York. Or so the Yankees hope, since they’ve invested $35 million over three years in Soriano.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.