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Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Answer to Annual Question: No, Rivera Hasn't Lost His Edge"--NY Times, Kepner

CLEVELAND, Aug. 9 – "He has taken the mound for the Yankees 242 more times than any other pitcher in the team’s history. He is 37 years old,
  • a 13-year veteran who has pitched the equivalent of another full season and a half in October.***
"Yet the annual guessing game about Mariano Rivera losing it has become as hackneyed as a joke about airline peanuts. As the Yankees begin a three-game series with the Indians at Jacobs Field on Friday, their most indispensable player is as dominant as ever.
  • “He’s just a freak of nature,” the Toronto Blue JaysFrank Thomas said. “He’s mastered a pitch. People say he’s going to lose it. He’s not going to lose it.”
“It’s effortless, and when the ball’s 96 with late movement like that, it’s unheard of,” Thomas said. “He gets better and better and better. When he’s fully rested, it’s a truly amazing pitch. I’ve seen him like that a number of times over the years; many, many days. He’s maintained that same pitch with late action and it’s extremely difficult to hit.”
  • Rivera has converted his last 18 save opportunities, allowing just two earned runs in 21 and 1/3 innings in those games, with no walks and 22 strikeouts. The Yankees are 57-1 when leading after eight innings, the loss coming in Oakland on April 15....
Predictably, there were questions about whether Rivera had lost his edge....“It happens every year, so I don’t get offended,” Rivera said.
  • His ability extends beyond the mound. Rivera does not have the title of captain, but he fills that role for the pitching staff. He coaxed two strong years from Tom Gordon, in 2004 and 2005, and has now become a mentor to his current setup man, Luis Vizcaino.

“He’s my teacher, my everything,” Vizcaino said. “I’m happy to hang out with that guy, because he gives me a lot of confidence. Every day, I talk with him.”

Rivera has an elevated status among players around the league. He is one of them, but clearly on a higher plane.

  • No one wants to think about replacing him, but this week’s promotion of Joba Chamberlain offers a glimpse at a possible successor.

The Yankees view Chamberlain, 21, as a starter for the long term. But with a 100 mile-per-hour fastball and a wicked array of off-speed pitches, he may have the stuff to be a dominant closer. He threw two scoreless innings in his debut on Tuesday.

“You can be anything you want, as long as you work at it,” Rivera said. “Hopefully, he can be the man -- hopefully. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a long time to go...."

“But, definitely, I like the kid and I will do everything I can to do my best for him and be there to help.”"

From NY Times article by Tyler Kepner, "Rivera, Far From Losing It, Takes on Role of Mentor," (original title), and "Answer to Annual Question: No, Rivera Hasn't Lost His Edge" (title for same article in late edition) 8/10/07.

  • (Suzyn Waldman on Yankee radio Wednesday night noted Joba Chamberlain talking at length with Mariano, the latter doing most of the talking. She said not all of them take advantage of this resource!).
***Nice to hear a rare acknowledgment of a season and a half's grueling work that's never mentioned by the mass media or internet. If it is alluded to, it's put aside in a separate basket and you're railed at to focus on cookie saves in the regular season in hopes of getting a Cy Young or Hall of Fame vote for someone who's not a Yankee.*** (sm)
  • P.S. Patience pays off.
*On June 8, 2002, Mariano Rivera struck out Barry Bonds swinging on 6 pitches. So far, that's the only time the 2 have faced each other.
  • Rivera is the "All-Time Saves" Leader in American League history--not a stat you'll ever hear about.

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