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Soriano latest in line of homegrown Yankee stars

Special to

Oct. 21

It keeps being passed along, on up the middle of the Yankee franchise.

Bernie Williams came along. Then Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. Then Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. And now, Alfonso Soriano.

Oh, all right, Soriano did stand and watch his dramatic home run off Kazuhiro Sasaki on Sunday night the way he'd been told never to do again, but there is something about his Vladimir Guerrero-esque skill and naivete that tells us that he did not mean to showboat. He knew. He watched.

As did his teammates.

"It is scary how much talent he has, and how he's barely scratched the surface," says Scott Brosius.

"It's amazing how much he's improved playing a position he'd never played before," says Jeter.

"He has," says Mark Wohlers, "prime-time star written all over him."

Twice on Sunday, Soriano demonstrated how much his strike zone has improved, getting walks from Paul Abbott, two of the eight in the 5-0-0-0-8-2 line the M's pitcher took to the clubhouse after five innings. Then he took out Sasaki -- whom he had not faced in Japan -- when Seattle's ace made a mistake out over the plate with a fastball.

He put the Yankees a game away from another trip to the World Series.

Granted, the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball. And granted, they picked up free agents like Mike Mussina and Mike Stanton, and traded for Roger Clemens. But the fact remains: Go up the middle, and Posada, Pettitte, Rivera, Jeter, Soriano and Williams are all out of their farm system. Nick Johnson and Drew Henson (who one scout says is a lot closer to the big leagues than many realize off his Arizona Fall League performance) are close to the big leagues, and their system is loaded with left-handed relievers.

You can argue that another team might be better up the middle. But no team can line up its own homegrown talent and come close.

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