I cannot wait to get my shirt off! (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The day that Mariano Rivera injured himself was one of the saddest days for fans in recent Yankees history. From the repeated clips of the tragedy to the tweets from beat writers that it could be the end of his career, it was hard to deal with. Not only were there questions of his return but questions of who would close for the Bronx Bombers in his absence. David Robertson was given the closer role at first, then wound up on the DL as well. Rafael Soriano, the herald of one of the most lauded and head scratching contracts by the Yankees organization, was called upon to be a closer once again and he has excelled in the role, providing a huge relief for the bullpen, fans, and the Yankees as a whole.
Rafael Soriano was an excellent closer on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010. He was signed by the Yankees to be Mariano Rivera's set-up man and it didn't work out. The role went to Robertson and Soriano became D-Rob's set-up man in the 7th. It's safe to say that Rivera and Robertson were the two best relievers in the Yankees bullpen. Their injuries this year could have been devastating to the Yankees season if not for Soriano. Baseball has seen a lot of closers fail and falter in 2012. Heath Bell is just one example. Rivera has spoiled Yankees fans and while Soriano does not give the same level of 9th inning comfort as Mo did, his time as the Yankees closer has been superb.
In yesterday's game against the Detroit Tigers, Soriano was called upon to get four outs. The first out in the 8th was pretty standard. The 9th inning was another story. With runners on first and third with no outs and a one-run lead on the line, Soriano managed to get a soft line drive to Cano for one out, an infield pop fly to Jeter for the second out, and a pop fly to Granderson for the final out. Even though it was not a comfortable 1-2-3 9th inning, Soriano managed to get the job done. He has managed to get the job done since taking over as the Yankees closer and is a primary reason the Yankees bullpen is perhaps their greatest strength.
Before becoming a closer once again, Soriano struggled as just a regular reliever. It seems that he is best suited for the 9th inning, judging by his performance on the Rays in 2010 and the Yankees in 2012. His contract allows him to opt out at the end of this year to seek out a better deal. With his performance in the closer role this year, his future with the Yankees is uncertain. What is certain is that if he continues his stellar performance as the Yankees closer, the Bronx Bombers are indeed charged for the playoffs with Rafael Soriano in the 9th inning.