MINNEAPOLIS – The New York Yankees made a pair of transactions prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins, sending struggling left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuno to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for veteran right-handed starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, and designating outfielder Alfonso Soriano for assignment to make room for relief pitcher Bruce Billings.
“The taxing of our bullpen kind of forced us to make this move today, in a sense,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t have happened, but we decided we had to make it today.”
Less than a year ago, the Yankees re-acquired Soriano from the Chicago Cubs and he sparked a struggling lineup, keeping the Yankees in postseason contention into September. But Soriano’s struggles this season have been well-documented, and his batting average has dropped from .247 at the end of April down to .221 currently.
With his struggles, Soriano has consistently lost at-bats to Ichiro Suzuki, and playing part-time has seen to throw him out of his rhythm at the plate.
“It’s difficult because you’re not sure,” Girardi said. “Obviously with him not getting everyday at-bats this year, it was difficult. We came to spring training in a sense with five outfielders, then Beltran got hurt and he was playing every day. He never really got it going, he struggled against right-handers so Ich started getting more playing time. It’s just been tough.”
Girardi indicated that the thought had been given to playing Soriano every day for 10 days or so to see if he could find his swing, but with how well Ichiro has played, it was a catch-22 of sorts.
The newest Yankee, Brandon McCarthy, is not yet with the team. McCarthy, who turns 31 this week, has struggled in the National League this season, posting a 3-10 record and a 5.01 earned-run average. However, he has pitched well in back-to-back starts and should benefit from getting away from a last place team.
McCarthy last pitched on Thursday, which means he will not be able to fill Nuno’s turn in the rotation on Monday. Billings or Triple-A right-handed pitcher Shane Greene figure to be the two leading candidates to get the ball for the Yankees.