"The Freak," Alfonso Soriano has hit a home run to lead off a game three times this year---all in support of Roger Clemens, who earned his 297th career victory last night in the Yankees 9-2 win over the defending World Champs. Raul Mondesi added a homer of his own, and Bernie Williams had a couple of hits and a couple of RBI (he now leads the team with 22). At the rate lil' Sori and the Yankees offense is going, how long will it be before the Yankees get in their first brawl? If they don't slow down soon, it's hard to believe that the rest of the league is going to sit back and watch them roll over everyone without getting a bit nasty with them.
Soriano's brilliance is unsettling in this regard: just how long can he keep this up? Both John Sickels and Rob Neyer confirmed his status as a freak of nature last year. So the question remains: Is Soriano a great player, or the next Juan Samuel? The great Sandy Koufax spoke with Joe Torre before yesterday's game and told the Yankee manager:
"I don't think I've ever seen anybody with quicker hands than Soriano."
There is something about Soriano's blinding talent that makes me question whether it will last over five, ten years. Still, it won't stop me from appreciating every moment that little freak gives us in the meantime.
The Bombers dominating offense and sterling starting pitching has masked the team's mediocre bullpen, which is starting to look like a M*A*S*H unit. Antonio Osuna joined Mariano Rivera and Steve Karsay on the DL yesterday with a strained groin. In his place, the Yankees have called up right-hander Al Reyes, who they picked up after the Pirates released him this spring. According to the Daily News:
Reyes, a 33-year-old righty, has eight years of experience in the major leagues. His career record is 15-8 with three saves and a 4.12 ERA. In eight relief appearances at Columbus, Reyes had one save and a 1.04 ERA. He struck out 10 in 8-2/3 innings.
The young Jason Anderson now moves into Osuna's set-up role, and the Yankees better pray that their bats keep clicking with Seattle, Oakland, and Boston on the horizon.
Rivera, who was supposed to throw yesterday, pushed his outing back one day due to some general soreness and will pitch this afternoon instead. He will likely join the team next week in New York when the Yankees face Seattle and then Oakland.
Meanwhile, Billy Conners is busy working on fundamentals and mechanics with Jose Contreras in Tampa:
"This guy has very good stuff, but he's a little messed up here," said Connors, the club's minor league instructor, motioning toward his head. "He has too much pressure to perform. What everyone is hoping is that we can get him to relax a little, get some success and self-confidence and quickly get him back with the team."
Contreras is scheduled to pitch for Triple A Columbus next Tuesday.