For the first time since April 22nd, the Tampa Bay Rays will have an off day on Monday. So we thought why not look back on a former Ray, who made his MLB debut 19 years ago today. That former Ray? Rafael Soriano.
Soriano made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners on May 10th, 2002, and pitched three scoreless innings, picking up the save. That save would be the first of many, as Soriano picked up 207 saves over his 14-year MLB career.
However, we want to focus on Rafael Soriano during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rafael Soriano was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in December of 2009 in a trade with the Atlanta Braves. The Rays sent Jesse Chavez to the Braves in return for Soriano.
Rafael Soriano was coming off a 2009 season in which he recorded 27 saves, the most in his MLB career up to that point. He pitched to a 2.97 ERA throughout 2009 and struck out 102 hitters in 75.2 innings.
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Soriano entered his age 30 season in 2010 and was a member of the AL East for the first time.
Rafael Soriano got off to a rough start in a Rays uniform, pitching to an 11.25 ERA in spring training, however, he still started the season as the Rays closer.
Soriano got off to a quick start to the season, as he recorded 14 saves through the first two months of the season without blowing a single one.
By the time the Rays reached the All-Star break, Soriano had collected 23 saves and was pitching to a 1.60 ERA. This was good enough to land Soriano on the 2010 AL All-Star roster, his first, and only, time receiving the honor.
Rafael Soriano picked up right where he left off after the 2010 All-Star break, picking up 16 more saves through the end of July and all of August. He started the month of September with 39 saves and a 1.72 ERA, needing only five saves to reach the single-season record for the Rays.
Soriano took the mound on September 24th against the team he started his career with, the Seattle Mariners, and worked a 13-pitch ninth, recording save number 44. The save eclipsed Roberto Hernandez’s former single-season record of 43.
Rafael Soriano would go on to add one more save on the final day of the season, seeing his total finish at 45, with a 1.73 ERA.
The 2010 Tampa Bay Rays won the American League East and had a first-round playoff date with the Texas Rangers. After dropping the first two games at home, the Rays won back-to-back games on the road.
Soriano pitched in games three, four, and five for the Tampa Bay Rays, locking down the save in game four. The Tampa Bay Rays would lose game five, and the series to the Rangers.
When it was all said and done, Rafael Soriano allowed only 12 earned runs, in 62.1 innings pitched in 2010. Along with his stellar ERA, Soriano had a WHIP of 0.80, 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and an ERA+ of 226. For reference, the league average for ERA+ is 100.
However, what might be the most incredible stat is this; in games Rafael Soriano pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, the Rays record was 57-7.
Due to his incredible stats, Rafael Soriano won the 2010 AL Rolaids Relief Man award, which was awarded to the top relief pitcher in both the AL and NL from 1976-2012.
Along with winning the award, Soriano finished 8th in AL Cy Young voting for 2010. Soriano received 3% of the vote, the most of any relief pitcher in 2010.
Soriano also finished 12th in AL MVP voting in 2010. Soriano received 5% of the votes, the most of any pitcher in 2010. Oh, by the way, some guy named Evan Longoria finished sixth in AL MVP voting that season.
After the 2010 season, Rafael Soriano was granted free agency and signed with the New York Yankees on a three-year, $35 million-dollar contract. Soriano went on to play with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs in his MLB career but never recorded more saves or a lower ERA than he did in 2010.