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Saturday, April 30, 2011
Soriano ends April on high note


Rafael Soriano's first full month as a Yankee didn't go as expected, but the eighth-inning man at least ended it on a high note.

Soriano bounced back from his first blown save of the season with a scoreless eighth inning in the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Soriano heads into May with a 1-1 record and a 7.15 ERA.

"This month, it's over today," Soriano said. "So come back tomorrow and see what happens."

Soriano signed a three-year, $35 million deal in the offseason to be the Yankees' setup man after serving as Tampa Bay's closer last season, and he has struggled out of the gate. He's given up a run in four of his 12 appearances, including multiple runs in three of those outings.

"It's not easy the first like couple weeks, like couple games," Soriano said. "But after that now I feel more comfortable in the situation I'm supposed to pitch."

In his previous appearance on April 26 against the White Sox, Soriano gave up the game-winning two-run homer to Paul Konerko in the eighth inning in a 3-2 Yankees loss. Soriano said he thought he had his best fastball of the season that day, but sometimes bad luck is involved.

Against the heart of the Blue Jays lineup on Saturday, Soriano responded and helped preserve the Yankees' lead. While he gave up a single to Adam Lind with two outs, he managed to retire Juan Rivera on a deep fly to right to end the inning and turn the ball over to Mariano Rivera, who recorded his ninth save.

"To me in this month it was one bad game and come back today and feel like everything is clear," Soriano said. "I tried to go there and do the best that I can."

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild believes that Soriano's arm strength is improving as the season progresses and expects Soriano's breaking ball to get sharper over time, too.

Rothschild also said that he and Soriano need to focus more in the future on preparing to pitch in cold weather. Soriano has admitted that he's had trouble warming up in the cold, and the weather this past month didn't exactly remind people that summertime is almost here. While the temperatures are likely to get warmer soon, if the Yankees play deep into the fall, Soriano will have to deal with those frigid temperatures again.

"He hasn't been in a lot of cold weather the last few years," Rothschild said. "You could see the warmup process and all that stuff, it's a matter of getting used to it. But still, he's good enough to pitch in any weather and get people out."

When the Yankees signed Soriano, they envisioned a dominant bullpen that could shorten games to six innings. While the bullpen has done its job for the most part, Soriano has struggled to be that shutdown eighth-inning bridge to Rivera -- but perhaps a new month will bring him new fortunes.

As manager Joe Girardi said: "Sori's too talented to not play a big role for us."