PITTSBURGH – Rafael Soriano hasn’t been the difference-maker the Cubs hoped for when they signed the former All-Star closer two months ago.
The Cubs stashed the struggling reliever on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, adding lefty Clayton Richard to the bullpen before Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
“We get to slow Rafael down a little bit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Get him back with a strong everything and get him ready for the September push. Fortunately, Clayton didn’t go anywhere else.”
Richard had been designated for assignment on Monday, becoming a free agent before re-signing with the organization. Amid the roster churn, the Cubs had grabbed Richard from Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate in early July and designated him for assignment in late July.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Maddon likes the idea of matching Richard up against left-handed hitters and providing insurance for the rotation. The Cubs won two of Richard’s three spot starts since the Fourth of July.
Soriano skipped spring training while waiting for the right offer and it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank at the age of 35. He’s looked more like the guy who faded after the All-Star break with the Washington Nationals last year (6.48 ERA) than the elite reliever with three seasons of 40-plus saves on his resume.
Soriano enjoyed his best individual season with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, saving 45 games and showing up in the American League’s Cy Young and MVP voting.
But Soriano (2-0, 6.35 ERA) doesn’t have that same intimidation factor anymore, giving up four runs and eight hits through 5.2 innings.
“I truly do (believe he has something left),” Maddon said. “He probably tried to push it too hard to get back here. And that may have led to this. So let’s just back off right now before it gets awful. And then it’s fixable and we can utilize him the rest of the season.”