ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rafael Soriano, the former Tampa Bay reliever acquired in the offseason by the New York Yankees over the public objections of general manager Brian Cashman to serve as a high-priced "Bridge to Mariano [Rivera]," is currently a bridge to nowhere.
Soriano was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to May 14, due to lingering stiffness and soreness in his pitching elbow. Soriano's bullpen session on Monday was cut short when the soreness persisted, and he was sent back to New York for an MRI and a consultation with team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad.
Although the MRI came back "clean," according to manager Joe Girardi, the decision was made to shut down Soriano in the hope his problem would be cured by rest. Soriano had elbow surgery in 2008 but has said he did not believe his current injury was related.
"He's just got a little inflammation," Girardi said. "I sure hope [Soriano is back in two weeks]. That's the plan. I can't tell you that's what it's going to be. We'll see."
Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 as the Rays closer, has never seemed to adapt to his role as a set-up man. He has a 1-1 record, one save and 5.40 ERA in 16 games. Opponents are batting a healthy .268 against him, and his strikeout-to walk-ratio has been poor (10Ks/11 BBs in 15 IP).
"He's thrown the ball really well for us at times, and he's struggled at times," Girardi said. "Unfortunately, he hasn't felt good lately. We just need to get him healthy and get him doing what he's capable of doing."
Cashman's objections to the signing of Soriano, who was given a three-year, $35 million contract with opt-out clauses after each of his first two seasons, a deal negotiated by team president Randy Levine, centered around paying closer-type money for a set-up man. (Rivera signed new a two-year, $30 million deal this winter.)
But there were also whispers that Soriano was a difficult character in the clubhouse who had had run-ins with former managers Joe Maddon of the Rays and Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves. And so far, Soriano's Yankee tenure has been rocky, marred by his decision to bolt the clubhouse after blowing a game for CC Sabathia on April 5 in the fifth game of the season.
Monday night, after the Yankees had lost their sixth straight game, Soriano was asked if it was difficult to watch his team struggling and not be able to help.
"No," he said. "To me, you know, I don't think the bullpen is the problem right now. I think it is the hitters. In this situation, we losing by two or three runs, I don't think I'd be in these games anyway."
Girardi seemed miffed Tuesday when asked about his reaction to Soriano's statement.
"My thought is we win as a team and we lose as a team," he said. "And everyone on this club can always do a little bit more, and that's the bottom line. You can take that for what it's worth."
But when he was asked if Soriano's clubhouse personality is living up to his reputation, Girardi defended the 31-year-old right-hander.
"I think what you see is that he's experienced frustration, like a lot of our other players," Girardi said. "He doesn't like to be frustrated. He doesn't like to lose. Those are things that I've learned about him."
And when asked if he felt a talk with Soriano was in order, Girardi shut down the conversation.
"What happens between the players and me is gonna stay here," he said. "It's not gonna be written on a piece of paper or talked about on a radio show. Not from my mouth."
Soriano was replaced on the roster by outfielder Chris Dickerson, acquired during spring training from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitcher Sergio Mitre. Dickerson was recalled from Double-A Scranton, where he was hitting .248 with one homer and 11 RBIs, and placed into the starting lineup, batting ninth replacing Nick Swisher, who was ill, in right field.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.