NEW YORK -- Rafael Soriano's command was a major selling point this past offseason for the Yankees, who were shopping for a premium eighth-inning arm. But coming through the bullpen gates on Tuesday, the right-hander opened the door for a stunning Twins comeback.
Soriano issued three walks in a relief outing for the first time in his career and departed on the hook for four runs, as the Yankees flushed a dominant CC Sabathia start and lost in 10 innings to Minnesota, 5-4.
"Soriano is our eighth-inning guy," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "By no means is four runs a game in the bag, as we just saw. You know he's going to face some tough hitters, and that's the guy I was going to go to."
Joe Mauer's go-ahead single off left-hander Boone Logan gave the Twins their first lead in the 10th, but it was in the eighth that the balance of the game was tipped, with Soriano called upon to preserve a four-run lead.
Taking the mound after throwing 19 pitches on Monday, Soriano walked three of the six batters he faced, including issuing a bases-loaded free pass to Mauer on his 32nd pitch, forcing in the Twins' first run.
"He was struggling with command a little bit, and had a hard time with his fastball," catcher Russell Martin said of Soriano. "He got himself in trouble; it's not like they whacked him around. It was a tough night for him."
"You don't try to do too much, and just take what he gives you," Mauer said. "Soriano is tough, and he has a hard cutter. I saw him the night before, which helped."
Girardi then went to right-hander Dave Robertson, who was touched for a soft Delmon Young bloop to right field that Nick Swisher charged and missed, letting the ball fall in for a double that allowed Mauer to slide home safely with the tying run.
"You replay that play in your mind and you think you've got to keep that ball in front of you," said Swisher, who said he had been too aggressive. "I made a mistake, and we paid for it."
"Delmon's not going to hit many balls like that," Robertson said. "He hits it hard the majority of the time. It's unfortunate he was able to bloop one in there."
Soriano left Yankee Stadium without speaking to reporters. He signed a three-year, $35 million contract to serve as Mariano Rivera's setup man last winter and had been unscored upon in his first two appearances.
"I think he'll handle it well," Girardi said. "He's been a closer in pennant races and tough situations."
Rivera held the Twins scoreless in the ninth, but Logan issued a leadoff walk to Denard Span and allowed a single by Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- who had missed two bunt attempts -- before Mauer rocketed a single past a drawn-in Robinson Cano at second base to score the go-ahead run.
"The bottom line is, I walked the leadoff hitter," Logan said. "It's not what you want to do."
The bullpen implosion flushed what would have been Sabathia's first win of the year, as the ace was in total command of the Twins for seven innings, receiving support in the form of big homers from Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones.
"The bullpen is really the strong point of our team," Sabathia said. "Nine times out of 10, they're going to come in and shut the door."
Sabathia deftly handled Minnesota's lineup on a raw evening, retiring the final 17 batters he faced and limiting the Twins to a pair of second-inning singles.
Sabathia was at 104 pitches through the seventh but knew as he left the mound that he was done.
"I know Joe and how he is," Sabathia said. "It's just early in the season. He's trying to protect us. I had a feeling it was my last inning."
The left-hander had some loud early backing, as Teixeira continued his scorching start by blasting a three-run homer in the first off Minnesota's Brian Duensing, Teixeira's fourth homer in five games. He's the first player in franchise history to homer four times in the club's first five games of the season.
Turning on a 2-0 changeup and pummeling it into the left-field seats with Derek Jeter and Swisher aboard, Teixeira collected his eighth, ninth and 10th RBIs of the year, evidence that his new approach is paying dividends.
Having scrapped time in the weight room in favor of repeated swings in the batting cage, Teixeira has now surpassed his April homer and RBI output from last season, when he slugged two homers and drove in nine runs.
"I feel good right now," Teixeira said. "My bat feels quick and I feel stronger."
Jones extended the Yankees' lead to four runs in the second inning, becoming the 13th Yankee in the post-expansion era (since 1961) -- and the first since Curtis Granderson on April 4, 2010 -- to homer in his first at-bat with the franchise.
The 33-year-old Jones, who has been told to be ready to play against lefties, whacked a laser into the first row in left field.
"It's special," Jones said. "It feels good to get the first homer out of the way. I didn't have the greatest Spring Training, but I was working on a lot of stuff."
Duensing settled in afterward, pitching through the seventh and limiting New York to six hits while striking out seven and walking two. On a night when the Yankees' vaunted bullpen seemed to blame, Teixeira said that he thought the bats also collectively laid off the accelerator.
"We've got to pile on," Teixeira said. "We can't be satisfied with four runs in the first two innings. Our offense is capable of a lot more than four runs a night."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.