Mariano Rivera reported to camp yesterday and spoke to the press. Chad Jennings has a thorough recap:
Mariano Rivera left home yesterday, doing what Andy Pettitte couldn’t bring himself to do this winter.
“It’s hard,” Rivera said. “One of my kids was, the little one was attached to my hip, crying. It’s hard. A lot of people don’t see that, that part of the game. You have to leave your family. Even though you’re going to see them, being detached from your family is hard.”
It seems Rivera never seriously considered retirement this offseason, but he admitted that leaving home “gets harder and harder,” and now that his oldest son is 17, Rivera realizes he’s “missed a lot of things.”
“Baseball is not everything,” Rivera said. “That’s what we do, yeah, but there’s still life after baseball. There will come a time when you have to make a decision, even though you still have the abilities to play. That comes within yourself. If you don’t feel it in your heart, you don’t feel it in yourself no more, it’s time to say goodbye because, why are you going to do it if you don’t have the desire to do it? That’s why I thank God for Andy, and I respect him because he just didn’t have the desire to do it no more.”
As always, it will be a pleasure to watch the man work.
Puff n Schtuff
I say my piece on the Yankees three deadline acquisitions on the latest episode of SNY.tv’s “Baseball Show.” Dig it:
Friggin’ Mets. I wish they’d decide what they are. They finished April with an eight-game winning streak that lifted them into first place, but by the time the Yankees made their way over to Queens on May 21, the Muts had fallen all the way down to last place in the National League East, a full seven games behind the Phillies. The Mets took two of three from the Yankees that weekend and, including those two wins, they have gone 18-5 since, vaulting past the slumping Phils and climbing within a half game of the similarly surging first-place Braves.
What gives? Well, a seven-game winning streak built on series sweeps of the Orioles and Indians has played a part, but the Yankees can’t talk trash about that having just beat up on those two teams to slip into a first-place tie themselves.
Replacing John Maine and Oliver Perez in the rotation with 23-year-old Jonathon Niese (who had been on the disabled list with a hamstring strain) and journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (who had been in the bullpen) has also been key. Maine and Perez both hit the DL with ERAs over 6.00, while Niese and Dickey, in eight combined starts since mid-May, have gone 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA. Hisanori Takahashi, another repurposed reliever, has also been a solid addition to the rotation having turned in three quality starts in five tries, going 2-1 with a 3.81 ERA. Add in a Cy Young-contending season from Mike Pelfrey and his new split-finger fastball and incumbent ace Johan Santana, and the Mets rotation, which seemed in ruins a month ago, is suddenly a strength.
Then there’s David Wright. On May 7, he was hitting .287/.416/.568 with seven homers, earning an honorable mention in my debut Awards Watch column on the MVP races soon after. Then, from May 8 to May 29, he hit just .187/.256/.320 with one home run and 31 strikeouts in 20 games, a rate of one K every 2.8 plate appearances. Since then, over a period of just less than three weeks, he’s hit .431/.477/.724 with four home runs and just 12 Ks (5.4 PA/K). It’s oversimplification to say as goes Wright, so go the Mets, but the parallels are certainly indicative of his importance to the team. Of course, Wright needs someone to drive in, and on that count, Jose Reyes’ resurgence has been perfectly timed. Over that 18-5 stretch, Reyes has hit .371/.419/.577 with eight steals in nine attempts.
Those performances from Reyes and Wright have been especially important because Jason Bay, since tripling his season home run total by going deep twice off CC Sabathia, has hit just one more dinger in his last 19 games, going .234/.306/.351 over that span. Similarly, rookie Ike Davis, who was driving the offense when the Yankees were in Queens, has hit just .235/.278/.425 since, though he’s been hot the last few games, getting two hits in each game of the Cleveland series, three of them for extra bases.
The pitching matchups for this weekend’s Subway Series finale are identical to the previous series in Queens four weeks ago. In that series, Javier Vazquez and Takahashi dueled to a draw in a 2-1 Yankee win Friday night. Then Pelfrey and Santana shut the Yankees down the next two nights as Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia struggled. Hughes and Sabathia have been better of late, but they have their work cut out for them rematching against the Mets top two starters.
Tonight, the Yankees look to rouse their bats from their recent two-game slumber as they take on 35-year-old Japanese “rookie” lefty Takahashi. There’s been a general impression lately that the Yankees are struggling against left-handed starters. There’s something to that as the team has hit just .252/.337/.426 in games started by a lefty versus .290/.374/.451 in games started by a righty and is just 12-11 in games started by opposing lefties, but I’m not sold. Overall, the Yankees have hit .277/.363/.460 against left-handed pitching and .277/.361/.434 against righties. I think the issue is rather the quality of the lefties they’ve been facing rather than the handedness of those pitchers. Nine of those losses were started by Johan Santana, Jon Lester, David Price, Rickey Romero, Brett Cecil, Jon Danks, Jamie Moyer, Scott Kazmir, and Dallas Braden. The other two were games were lost by the Yankee bullpen and had little to do with the either starting pitcher (one was Sergio Mitre vs. Detroit spot-starter Brad Thomas, who pitched just three innings, the other was the game in which David Huff got hit in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive in the third inning).
Takahashi’s first major league start came against the Yankees. His second came against the Phillies. In those two games he allowed no runs in 12 innings and struck out 11 against one walk. In his next two starts, against the weak-hitting Padres and Marlins, he gave up 11 runs in 9 1/3 innings while striking out six against four walks and yielding three home runs. His last time out, he allowed just one run in seven frames to the Orioles, but struck out only two. As for Vazquez, as I reported on Monday, he is 4-2 with a 2.94 ERA over his last six starts, including six scoreless innings against the Mets, and has won each of his last three starts, posting a 2.57 ERA while striking out 22 in 21 innings against just five walks and 11 hits (albeit with four of those hits leaving the park).
The rain has held off all day. Though the skies remain gray and threatening, it seems they’ll get Game One of the ALCS in. I only hope it’s without interruption. Even still, it should be a miserable night to be out there as temperatures dipping into the 30s could get downright icy with some precipitation. In the comments the other day, Sliced Bread compared the weather to an air-conditioned car wash. CC Sabathia has spent his career pitching for teams in Cleveland and Milwaukee, but one wonders if the cold could be partially to blame for his perennially poor Aprils. Either way, here’s hoping he waxes the Angels tonight.
As a sort of pregame show, here’s the latest Bronx Banter Breakdown staring Alex, myself, and Ted Berg talking Yankees-Angels ALCS. My massive series preview is the post below this one. We can’t get any more ready. Play ball!