- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- Injured New York Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano was activated off the disabled list for Friday's 4-2 loss against Baltimore and reliever Steve Garrison was sent down to Double-A Trenton, manager Joe Girardi announced before the game.
Soriano has been on the disabled list since May 17, retroactive to May 14, with right shoulder inflammation. He has missed 63 games entering Friday.
Soriano said before Friday's game that he is completely pain-free. It's still unknown whether he will return to his previous eighth-inning role.
"We're going to work him back slow," Girardi said. "We're not going to throw him right in there, we'll be careful about that. I'll have to look about two days in a row, we're just getting him back and we have to make sure that he's where he's supposed to be."
The Yankees signed Soriano in the offseason to a three-year, $35 million deal to try and hold down the eighth inning. Soriano, who excelled as Tampa Bay's closer last season, instead struggled in his new role before landing on the disabled list.
In 16 games spanning 15 innings, Soriano had a 1-1 record with a 5.40 ERA, giving up 15 hits and walking 11 batters. Opposing batters were hitting .268 against Soriano and from what Girardi remembers of those games, Soriano's problems had to do with his location. Soriano said he simply did not throw well.
"Whatever happened in the past, I don't want to think about it anymore," Soriano said through a translator. "I just got to move forward and continue to try to help the team."
Back in the clubhouse Friday, Soriano asked the Yankees for a translator when he answered questions at his locker. It was an interesting change because the reliever had addressed reporters in English since joining the club. His commitment to the team was questioned earlier this season following some curious comments about his injury and the New York hitters.
As Soriano rehabbed with the Yankees' minor league teams, he pitched in four games and threw 4 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs including two home runs for an 8.31 ERA. He said his time off helped him get both mentally and physically stronger.
"The main thing for me was going to the minor leagues and making sure that I had no pain," Soriano said. "I wasn't concerned about strikes or location or anything like that because the problem was pain, not location."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that if Soriano is healthy, he does not see why Soriano can't pitch like he has in the past. If Soriano can return to that form, it will only make the Yankees bullpen deeper, as David Robertson has emerged as a top set-up man.
Soriano said he's happy to see the success that Robertson has been having with him and the other offseason bullpen signing, Pedro Feliciano, both being on the disabled list.
"I'm not sure what the manager is going to do about the situation," Soriano said. "I'm happy to come back here and try to help the team and whatever decision Joe makes, I will be happy about that."
Soriano added about the possibility of not pitching in the eighth: "Mentally, I'm ready to go any inning that Joe needs me. Seventh, eighth, whatever he wants, I'll be ready to go and I don't think that is going to be any problem."
With Soriano up, Garrison returns to the minor leagues. Garrison pitched just once for the Yankees, throwing 2/3 of an inning against Seattle on Monday and retiring both batters he faced. With Garrison departing from the Yankees bullpen, the Yankees now have just one left-handed reliever in Boone Logan.
Girardi also announced Friday that starter Ivan Nova, who was demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Phil Hughes came off the disabled list, will start the second game of Saturday's double-header against the Orioles.
Girardi said that Nova pitching in the second game probably has something to do with the roster, and he could not comment on whether Nova will remain on the roster following the game and said the team will have to evaluate Nova.
While Nova had been 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA before being demoted for Hughes, who has been inconsistent since his return, Girardi does not have any regrets about making the swap.
"The guy that we brought back into the rotation won 18 games last year and there aren't a lot of people that do that every year," Girardi said. "We thought that there were things Nova could work on when he went down. It's unfortunate he got hit with a line drive and had one start cut short, but no, we had a guy that won 18 games the year before coming back."
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano was activated off the disabled list for Friday's game against Baltimore and reliever Steve Garrison was sent down to Double-A Trenton, manager Joe Girardi announced before the game.