As Rivera always does every game, he went out to shag fly balls hit in batting practice to get in a workout. Unfortunately approaching the warning track going for a ball his right leg gave out and falling awkwardly to the dirt the collective hearts of all of the Yankee faithful skipped a beat. As Mo rolled around on the ground in the out field everyone watching could tell it wasn’t good. Alex Rodriguez watching from home plate said what every Yankees fan was, oh my god, oh my god.
All Yankees fans have realized that Rivera’s time on the mound was ticking. The all time saves leader and living legend would eventually hang up his cleats and the Yankees would not have the automatic save machine that would make games 8 innings for the opposition. We will get a taste of that this year.
The Yankees have been prepared for this day for a while now. Their first option that they were looking ahead past Mariano’s eventual departure was signing Reliever Rafael Soriano from Tampa Bay. The closer for the Rays in 2010, Soriano racked up 45 saves and finished 8th in the AL Cy Young Award voting all while catching the eye of the Yankees. That offseason the Yankees signed Soriano to a 3 year $35 million deal to be the Yankees 8th inning man and possibly become the eventual replacement to Rivera. However things have not gone according to plan for Soriano. Struggling in his first year and winding up on the DL for a good part of the year, Soriano was demoted from his 8th inning job and replaced with David Robertson who took advantage of the opportunity making the all-star team for the first time and posting a 1.13 ERA with 100 strikeouts. Now it appears that Robertson is in line to become the new Yankees closer while Soriano may take over the 8th inning role.
Despite how horrible the situation seems for the Yankees right now it could be a whole lot worse. They could not have reliable options to fill his place for the time being like Robertson and Soriano and have a offense as potent as the Yankees can be when they are firing on all cylinders as they should. This may not take they Yankees completely out of the conversation for the World Series, but it sure doesn’t help their chances of returning this year.
Mariano has said that he completely intends on pitching next year and returning as the Yankees closer to finish out his career the way a first ballot Hall of Famer should. If anyone can come back from such a devastating injury as he has suffered, its Mo. The 42 year old who still pitches as well as he did in 1996 setting up for John Wetteland for the world champion Yankees. The man who still is as shut down as he has ever been. The Yankees have prepared for this possibly happening with two very qualified candidates for the position in the future but when Rivera is healthy this is still his job. So don’t count Mo out as he has proven time and time again why he it the greatest of all time and I expect he will next year.