Girardi won't commit to role for Soriano

Girardi won't commit to role for Soriano

ST. PETERSBURG -- Tuesday was the day Rafael Soriano made his first rehab appearance since landing on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation on May 17. But it wasn't the day Yankees manager Joe Girardi would say with any certainty that Soriano will reclaim his job as setup man upon returning.

The way Girardi sees it, there's no need to jump the gun.

"Look, I'm not saying what I'm going to do or what I'm not going to do," Girardi explained prior to the second game of a four-game series against the Rays. "The biggest thing is I have to get this guy healthy and know how he's throwing the baseball. If he's throwing the baseball the way that he's capable of, I've got a great thing going, because I have two guys that can do the same job. And that's a great problem to have."

That other guy is David Robertson, who made the American League All-Star team and has posted a 1.21 ERA while doing an admirable job filling in for Soriano as the eighth-inning man.

Before landing on the DL, Soriano had a 5.40 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 15 innings. He then struggled in his first Minor League rehab start on Tuesday night, giving up two runs on two hits while throwing 21 pitches in 1 1/3 innings for the Class A Tampa Yankees.

When asked on Thursday in Toronto if Soriano would be his setup man when activated, Girardi said: "Let's just see. Let's just get him back first."

Five days later, the manager's thoughts essentially remained the same.

"We have to see how he's throwing and how he's feeling before I can make any determination," Girardi said. "The big thing is we have to get him back healthy and throwing the way that he's capable of. We'll just see what happens. But we have to get him back first."

On the one hand, of course, are Soriano's struggles and recent injury, which included a serious setback. On the other, there's the fact that the Yankees gave him a three-year, $30 million contract to pitch the eighth inning.

Since Soriano has been out for more than two months, Girardi could work him back slowly before giving him the later innings. If Soriano struggles, then the decision to stick with Robertson as the bridge to closer Mariano Rivera may be an easy one.

But if both are pitching well?

"Right now, it's just hypotheticals -- my favorite," Girardi said with a wry smile.

"Let's make those decisions when I have to," he added. "Let's not make them tonight."

While also appearing in his first rehab game as a designated hitter for the Tampa Yankees, Eric Chavez, out with a bone bruise on his left foot, went 0-for-3 with a walk.

Girardi said that neither Soriano nor Chavez would be ready for the Yankees' home series against the Athletics this weekend.