Commentary

Soriano perfect in debut as bridge to Mo

Setup man sets aside differences with Brian Cashman, tames Tigers on Opening Day

Updated: April 1, 2011, 10:47 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Rafael Soriano said, "A lot of people got mad in the Dominican."

In January, on the day Soriano signed his fat new contract with the New York Yankees, the man responsible for bringing players to the Bronx, GM Brian Cashman, said he would not have spent the Yankees' money that way.

[+] EnlargeRafael Soriano
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesRafael Soriano, who led the AL with 45 saves in 2010, got closer money to set up for Mariano Rivera, a deal Yanks GM Brian Cashman had openly opposed.

"In the paper in the Dominican it can make people mad," Soriano said Thursday after pitching a perfect eighth inning in his Yankees debut.

Soriano's family and friends were upset with Cashman's comments. And, on the first day of spring training, Cashman, wanting to smooth over any possible bad feelings, summoned Soriano to his Tampa office. Cashman explained his side. Soriano said his piece.

Cashman told Soriano, "This had nothing to with your ability. I know you are going to help us. I know you are a great pitcher, but I have to answer to ownership and I have certain amount of money to spend. So this had nothing to do with you. This had everything to do with money."

"I wanted him to hear it directly from me," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com.

The master plan, devised by Yankees president Randy Levine in consultation with owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, to overrule Cashman and sign Soriano as the setup man looked like a very good one on Opening Day. Soriano handled the eighth inning beautifully before handing off to Mariano Rivera.

Just as they drew it up in the boardroom.

It is no small thing that Soriano's first appearance, in a 6-3 Yankees' win over the Tigers, was flawless.

"He had to feel really good about his outing today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I did."

Soriano joined the Yankees with a lot of whispers around him. There were not many, if any, offers that were close to the Yankees' three-year, $35 million deal. There was talk, even among some with the Yankees before the signing, that Soriano is a bad clubhouse guy who bristles if he doesn't have things a certain way.

A slow start could lead to a toxic concoction.

Soriano is lockering next to Rivera and the thought is that Mo can rub off on him. This is a line that Soriano's agent, Scott Boras, sold this offseason and it is one Soriano seems to be buying more and more the longer he spends around Rivera.

Cashman never thought Soriano would be a Yankee. A week before the team signed the reliever, Cashman publicly said he would not give up his first-round pick for anyone other than Cliff Lee, who was already off the board. When Cashman was overruled, he had to give up the pick.

"The last team that I thought would pick me up would be the Yankees," Soriano said. "That is what I thought was surprising."

With a league-leading 45 saves in 2010, Soriano figured to be a closer this season, not a setup man. But by adding Soriano, the Yankees have created a dynamic one-two punch at the end of games. If a team is down after the seventh inning, they know they have to face arguably the two best closers in the sport.

On Opening Day, Soriano and Rivera closed the door on Detroit. Already, Soriano said he and Cashman had closed the door on the past.

With ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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