One of the all-time greats
Major League Baseball players would never admit this but there has to be a sinking feeling in the dugout when they see Mariano Rivera entering the game. The 17-year veteran has arguably been the most consistent reliever of all-time and aside from his rookie year — during which he spent part of the season in the starting rotation — he has posted an ERA over three just once in his career. Rivera has just 72 blown saves in his entire career while the Toronto bullpen has 25 this year alone.
Rivera further cemented his place among the all-time greats on Saturday afternoon by recording career save No. 601, which moved him into a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the most in Major League history. What makes that accomplishment even more impressive is that Rivera has been able to enjoy so much success with essentially one pitch. The native of Panama throws almost exclusively a cut-fastball but his ability to dart that pitch in and out and throw it to all four quadrants of the strike zone has made him virtually unhittable even if the hitter knows what’s coming.
There’s a little under two weeks left in the season but it appears as though Rivera will take over sole possession of first place on the all-time saves list in the near future. Here’s what Blue Jays manager John Farrell had to say about it as well as some other leftovers.
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“He’s into territory now where he’s going to be in unchartered waters. Easily labeled as the best closer of all time. What’s remarkable is that when you watch video of when he first came up to where he is now, it’s the same exact delivery and I think that speaks volumes to his athleticism, how he’s kept himself in shape, and even with some minor injuries along the way, his performance has been second to none.
“You’re hard-pressed to find someone like him. Whether you want to call that a freak of nature or not it’s a remarkable level of performance. When you consider how many post seasons he has pitched in above and beyond what guys in a similar role would be in, easily the best of all-time.”
On the key to his success…
“I think many people that look at the closer role, it’s important to have a short-term memory so that you do stay on an even keel so you don’t ride the ultimate highs, or the lows. You prepare for the next opportunity that’s given to you. Let’s face it, he’s had an awful lot of opportunities and he’s not only been excellent in performance but the durability is remarkable.”
On the feeling in the dugout when he enters the game…
“You’re hoping you don’t break too many bats and you’re hoping you get a chance to put some quality at-bats together. You know it’s got a chance to be a quick 1-2-3, you know you have your hands full every time he walks to the mound.”
On having the success with just one pitch…
“He has thrown predominantly the cut fastball but he can throw it to four quadrants of the strike zone. Even though the guys that step into the box have an idea that that pitch is going to be thrown, the lateness to it, and the ability to execute to both sides of the plate still keeps the guessing game clearly in his favor. He’s a hell of a closer.”
On September call-ups and how that affects strategy..
“Our goal is to go out and continue to put together a game to win every night. The players that have had the majority, if not all the season here, they’re not being pushed aside to take a look at a young guy. Yes, we’ll find ways to get exposure and get a read on players that have just come up in September but by no means are the players that have been here all year now being put off in the corner for a new group of young players.”
On Alvarez and the possibility of going to Winter Ball…
“We haven’t sat down with him but when you look at the combined number of innings that he pitched last year, he’s approaching that this year, the one thing we fully respect is the national pride and the natural pull to pitch for their home country and their teams but I think what we need to do is educate him through the process of the long road where his benefits may come from.”
Ready for more than five innings?
“I’m ready for whatever. If they want me to go another inning, I will, if they don’t, I won’t. Right now I feel good and that’s all you can ask for.
“I am done worrying about what if I throw this many pitches will I get hurt again. I’m not worried about that at all anymore.”
On how the offspeed pitches feel right now…
“You know what, it differs every day still right now. Some days, the breaking balls, I’ve got a good feel for them, other days I don’t. That’s the one thing I wish I had a feel for every time but I know it’s going to take a little more time. Just keep going.”
On going a full five innings for the first time since 2008…
“It was a good feeling. I’m proud of the guys, they battled back. That’s (Sabathia) one of the best pitchers in baseball over there. It was tough for him with us. So, overall, good win for us. It’s good when you beat the Yanks.”