Mariano Rivera came in with two outs in the 8th inning last night, and promptly retired Melvin Mora on three pitches. He then sat through a long inning in which the Yankees scored 6 runs, and most expected him to be done for the evening. However, Joe Girardi brought him out for the 9th, and he allowed one hit, a homer to Reimold. Here are some opinions on whether that move was prudent.
Look, Rivera is among the most respected players in the game. In theory, he knows his body better than anyone. And the conventional wisdom in the precise situation that unfolded last night _ bring in your closer to get out of a tight spot in the eighth, and then your club boosts its lead from tight to comfortable _ is to send your closer back out for the ninth. Because if the other guys falter, you’re going to want to get your closer, except that he’s out of the game already.
This was different, though. This is Rivera, clearly still not at full strength. And this was an 11-3 lead over the lowly Orioles. The Yankees could’ve trusted pretty much anyone with that sort of cushion. And frankly, even if they had blown it in cataclysmic fashion, you’d still rather have that than a Rivera injury.
There was simply no reason _ given the date on the calendar and the long bottom of the eighth _ for Rivera to be back out there.
Rivera is a precious and fragile commodity. I know Girardi wants to keep such an important leader happy by building those save totals. But Rivera is already the all-time AL leader in saves. He hardly needs an extra one on a Wednesday night in May to enhance his legacy. What he needs is protection for the long season. So his pitching in the ninth inning on Wednesday night was just dumb.
Last night, though, Joe Girardi made what I’d call an inconsistent decision. After bringing Mariano Rivera into the game in the eighth inning and the score 5-3, Girardi opted to leave his closer in for the ninth despite the Yankees turning the game into a rout with a six-run bottom of the inning. One night earlier, in an almost identical situation – this time the Yanks were up one and CC Sabathia was ready to go back out, only to see the Yankees score seven runs in the bottom of the seventh – Girardi pulled his ace.
So, the question begs: If he did it with his best starter, why not with his best reliever? Especially one who may or may not be 100 % healthy?
All of these writers got their answer when Girardi explained after the game that Mariano needs to build up arm strength. When he struggled a week ago, the team stated that he just did not have the requisite arm strength to reach his normal velocity. If Joe and Mariano feel that he needs to pitch so as to build his arm up to where it needs to be, who am I to argue? This had nothing to do with getting Mo a save, a notion that I find ridiculous, nor is it similar to the situation of a starter who has thrown a lot of pitches to this point. Finally, this was not risking his health. Rather, it was a move to try and bolster his health, and a move that is really quite defensible.
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