Yankees Closer Rivera Starting to Show He's Human After All
Maybe Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman knew something that we didn't during spring training. Everyone was questioning when Mariano Rivera was going to be signed to a contract extension, with his current deal running out at the end of the season. Cashman stated that he informed Rivera that he preferred to negotiate after the season.
When asked about being a potential free agent who could even sign with the Boston Red Sox, Rivera stated to reporters in Florida, "I respect the players and I respect the organization, but we've had so much happen between us. I don't think I could do it."
The 37 year-old native of Panama has been practically untouchable throughout his career. Since 1995, Rivera has 413 saves with a 2.32 ERA with a 95.8 percentage of games saved. But in 2007, he has already blown two saves and has a 1-2 record with a shocking 7.11 ERA.
The first blown save came in Oakland when Rivera gave up a walk-off home run off the netting on the foul pole to infielder Marco Scutaro. Then the meltdown at Fenway Park on Friday night. This is not a Yankee-type start of the season for the entire team, especially when you consider that they are currently in last place in the American League East. After the 6-4 loss in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the Bronx Bombers are 8-11 and a half game behind the lowly Devil Rays.
Critics still have to remember that it is only April and the Yankees have had seasons in the past where they have started slow only to bounce back and win the division. So although things may look bleak now, there is time to regroup. But there appears to be some panicking occurring. The Yankees phenom, Phillip Hughes, was recalled and will make his first major league start on Thursday. This was after the 20 year-old was shelled in spring training. He was pitching effectively at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre in the early going, with a 2-1 record and a 3.94 ERA. In his last start on Wednesday, Hughes had 10 strikeouts.
Even the incredible start by Alex Rodriguez will be for naught if the bullpen does not gather itself. There were already too many questions about the set-up men, with Rivera being the automatic. He is as important if not more to the Yankees as A-Rod, Derek Jeter and even Roger Clemens (if he decides to come out of retirement and sign). It all boils down to the 'Sandman.'
Will he be able to be at least close to what he has been? He is not getting any younger and did have a tender pitching elbow in 2006, which sidelined him for most of last September. After blowing his second save in a week, Rivera stated to reporters in Boston, "Things like that hurt, definitely. You're trying to search what's going on and what happened and you don't find answers. You just keep going. It's frustrating and it's tough, but at the same time, you just have to move on and get the next opportunity."