Since rejoining Yankees, outfielder has helped lead club's surge
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NEW YORK -- The Yankees team that welcomed back Alfonso Soriano on July 26, and that is now benefiting from his offense, is very different from the club that traded him to the Rangers for Alex Rodríguez prior to the 2004 season.
And Soriano, 37, also is a very different player now.
At the time of the A-Rod trade, Soriano was a rising star at second base, and the Yankees, coming off their sixth World Series appearance in eight years, were more than willing to open their wallet to procure the best available talent.
Fast forward 10 years and Soriano, now a seasoned outfielder, is breathing new life into a more frugal Yankees team -- a team that faced a seven-game deficit in the American League East when it acquired the veteran in a trade with the Cubs.
On Wednesday night, Soriano's two-run shot in the eighth inning was the difference in New York's 4-2 win over Toronto. The Dominican native, who entered play Thursday hitting .284 in 24 games for the Yankees, was named the Player of the Week in the American League on Monday after a torrid seven days in which he clobbered five home runs, drove in 18 runs and scored another nine. The Yankees went 5-2 during that stretch.
"I'm happy, primarily because I was able to help the team have a good week, which is the most important thing," Soriano said during a media conference with Spanish language media at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The Yankees saw themselves 11 1/2 games out of first place in their division on Aug. 7, but thanks in part to Soriano, they won nine out of 11 to pull within 6 1/2 games of first-place Boston entering Thursday's action.
Soriano, who made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1999 and has since played for the Rangers, Nationals and Cubs, is having a different experience with New York this time around.
"It's somewhat different. When I was here [the first time], I was one of the youngsters. Now I'm one of the veterans on the team," said Soriano.
What has not changed, at least for Soriano, is the perception that the Yankees are not to be ruled out, even when the team appears to be struggling. The club's commitment to winning now and his memories of the Bronx were enough to convince the veteran to waive his no-trade clause with the Cubs and accept the move.
"It was a great satisfaction … that the Yankees, the team where I got started, wanted my services again," said Soriano. "Especially being with Chicago, which is a very good organization, but it's thinking about the future. I'm interested in the present, given my age."
Soriano, who hit .254 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 93 games for the Cubs this year, says he did not think twice about rejoining the Yankees despite the standings in the AL East and that other teams were interested in him.
"For me, it was easier to come to this team that I know and a team that, even though things get ugly at times, always finds a way to move forward and never gives up," said Soriano. "This Yankees team is like that."
Soriano has reinvigorated the Yankees in the midst of a postseason race, and the team's recent surge has him hopeful.
"If we keep playing the way we have, we have a good chance," said Soriano. "There are  games left. If our offense, defense and pitching keep it up, we have a good shot.
"I'm happy to be here. My first years here were a big factor in my decision to come back. The first three years that I played here were wonderful. I've always enjoyed winning, and I learned that with this organization."
Nathalie Alonso is a writer and editorial producer for LasMayores.com, the official Spanish-language site for MLB.com.