Based on last season, the choice is obvious.
Dave Robertson wasn’t only the Yankees best setup man last season, he was one of the best setup men in all of baseball. Truth be told, you could throw closers into the discussion and Robertson would still have ranked near the top. You could argue he was the best relief pitcher in New York last season, and that’s including Mariano Rivera.
Point is, Robertson was incredible last year, and he did absolutely nothing to suggest he should lose his grip on the eighth inning. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a decision to be made.
Rafael Soriano didn’t win over many Yankees fans last year. He wasn’t particularly personable, he got off to a terrible start and a stint on the disabled list limited him to fewer than 40 innings. At times, he simply wasn’t very good. In the second half, though, Soriano pitched well. He was never as good as Robertson, but he cut down on the walks, had more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings in the final month, and let opponents hit just .205 after the all-star break.
Yes, Soriano has the big contract, but he had that same contract last season and Girardi was willing to bump him to the seventh inning then. More than money, what Soriano has in his favor is a track record. From 2006 through 2010, Soriano was consistently one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. When he came to the American League East two years ago, he became one of the truly elite relievers in the game as the Rays closer.
Let there be no doubt, I believe in Robertson. After what he did last season, it’s hard to argue against him as the Yankees primary setup man. But at this time last year, it was impossible to argue against Soriano in that role. These are the “decisions” that face a bullpen as deep as the Yankees.
Associated Press photo