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07/29/11 6:45 PM ET

Soriano activated, will be eased back

NEW YORK -- Rafael Soriano was activated for Friday's game against the Orioles after a two-and-a-half-month disabled list stint caused by right elbow inflammation.

Steve Garrison was optioned to Double-A Trenton to make room on the 25-man roster, and to create room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Sergio Mitre was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Joe Girardi said Soriano will be eased back into the bullpen, where he began the season as the Yankees' setup man.

"We're going to work him back slow," the Yankees' manager said. "We're not going to throw him right in there, and we'll be careful about, I'll have to look about two days in a row. We're just getting him back, and we want to make sure he's where he's supposed to be."

David Robertson has assumed the setup role in Soriano's absence, going 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in 44 appearances and earning an All-Star berth.

Soriano was just 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances before going on the DL. He decided to use a translator in his first interview back in the Yankees' clubhouse, saying through bullpen catcher Roman Rodriguez that he is open to whatever Girardi has planned for him moving forward.

"I'm not sure what the manager's going to do about that situation," Soriano said. "I'm happy to come back here, try to help the team, and whatever decision Joe makes, I will be happy with that."

Soriano led the American League with 45 saves for the Rays last season before signing a three-year, $35 million contract with the Yankees in January.

Yanks tab Nova for Saturday's nightcap

NEW YORK -- Ivan Nova will start the second game of Saturday's split doubleheader between the Yankees and Orioles at 7:05 p.m. ET, though the right-hander's future with New York for the rest of the season remains unclear.

Bartolo Colon will start the first game, at 1:05 p.m.

Nova was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 3 to make room for Phil Hughes, the 2010 All-Star who was returning to the club after a three-month disabled-list stint caused by right shoulder inflammation.

Hughes has gone 2-2 with a 5.48 ERA in four starts off the DL. Nova, who was 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 17 starts with the Yankees, has gone 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in three starts at Triple-A.

Nova was hit in the right ankle on July 7 and left in the second inning of a July 19 game after hurting the ankle again, then went on the seven-day DL.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the club did not regret sending Nova down, and he was non-committal about the plans for the 24-year-old moving forward.

"The guy that we brought back into the rotation won 18 games last year, and there aren't a lot of people that do that every year," Girardi. "We thought there were things that Nova could also work on as he went down. It's unfortunate he got hit with the line drive and had one start cut short, but no -- we had a guy that won 18 games the year before coming back."

Yankees have fond memories of Irabu

NEW YORK -- The communication barrier was one big obstacle Hideki Irabu had to overcome after arriving to the Bronx from Japan, but his former Yankees teammates had fond memories of the right-hander and his clubhouse presence.

"He was great in the clubhouse," said Jorge Posada, who caught Irabu. "A guy that always had a smile on his face. A guy that really enjoyed being in the clubhouse. Obviously, the communication barrier was there, but he was always trying to learn the language, and the words that he spoke were the funny ones."

Irabu, 42, was found dead Wednesday in a home in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes. He had a wife and two kids.

"He was found dead by an apparent suicide," Sgt. Michael Arriaga of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Irabu, who signed a four-year, $12.8 million contract with the Yankees after forcing a trade from the Padres, went 29-20 for the Yankees from 1997-99.

Derek Jeter, one of three current Yankees to have played with Irabu, said he was caught off-guard by the news of his former teammate's death.

"Irabu was fun," Jeter said. "He didn't speak much English, but he knew more than he probably led you guys to believe. But he was fun to be around, he had a good personality."

The Yankees observed a moment of silence prior to Friday's series opener against Baltimore.

Irabu pitched in the Japan Pacific League from 1988-96 and was one of the first pitchers to leave Japan for the Major Leagues, but Posada said the right-hander never discussed the burden of coming over.

Joe Girardi, who also caught Irabu, said he was saddened to learn of the news Thursday night.

"I thought he was a good teammate, he was enjoyable to be around, he pitched a lot of good games for us," the Yankees' manager said. "Whenever you lose someone before, in your mind, that they should be gone, it saddens us. He's gonna be missed. He had children, he was a guy that was fun to be around, and it's sad."

Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.