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Mo is 1st in history with unanimous Hall election

All-time saves leader, Yanks legend appears on all 425 ballots
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The pitch that Mariano Rivera refers to as "a gift from God" inexplicably appeared one afternoon in June 1997, as the reliever played catch with a teammate in front of the Yankees' dugout. Each toss darted with wicked movement, and what would be recognized as the most lethal cut fastball in history had been born.

With that magical offering, the regal Rivera destroyed countless bats across big league infields, celebrating championships and eventually standing alone as the all-time saves leader. Time was the only remaining obstacle to his selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a call that came Tuesday as Rivera was unanimously selected to the Class of 2019.

NEW YORK -- The pitch that Mariano Rivera refers to as "a gift from God" inexplicably appeared one afternoon in June 1997, as the reliever played catch with a teammate in front of the Yankees' dugout. Each toss darted with wicked movement, and what would be recognized as the most lethal cut fastball in history had been born.

With that magical offering, the regal Rivera destroyed countless bats across big league infields, celebrating championships and eventually standing alone as the all-time saves leader. Time was the only remaining obstacle to his selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a call that came Tuesday as Rivera was unanimously selected to the Class of 2019.

Set to be joined by Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina at next summer's ceremonies on July 21 in Cooperstown, N.Y., Rivera appeared on all 425 ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, making him the first player to be unanimously elected. Class of 2016 member Ken Griffey Jr. previously held the high mark, getting 99.32 percent of the vote.

"I was just happy to pitch in the big leagues and play for the New York Yankees -- as many championships as I could do it," Rivera said. "After my career, I was thinking: Did I have a good shot to be a Hall of Famer? This was just beyond my imagination. This is the pinnacle of every athlete or every player that played the game of baseball. Just to be considered a Hall of Famer is an honor, but being unanimous is just amazing to me."

Mariano, Edgar, Doc, Moose elected to HOF

Video: Rivera, Halladay, Martinez, Mussina elected to HOF

Widely considered the greatest relief pitcher ever, Rivera spent his entire career with the Yankees, from 1995-2013, compiling 652 saves while finishing 952 games, both Major League records. His 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are the lowest in the live-ball era among qualified pitchers.

A 13-time All-Star, Rivera was at his finest when the stakes were the highest. He secured 42 saves and owned a 0.70 ERA in the postseason, celebrating five World Series championships and seven American League pennants. More men have walked on the moon (12) than have scored an earned run off Rivera in the postseason (11).

"Mariano was a fierce competitor and a humble champion, which has made him such a beloved baseball legend," said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "Success and stardom never changed Mariano, and his respect for the game, the pinstripes and for his teammates and opponents alike makes this day such a celebration of his legacy. There will be many more great and talented relief pitchers, but there will never be another like him."

Timeline of Mariano's illustrious career

Video: Mariano Rivera unanimously elected to Hall of Fame

The son of a commercial fisherman, Rivera was born in Panama and raised in the modest village of Puerto Caimito, signing with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1990 for a $3,000 bonus. Rivera made his professional debut that summer as a starting pitcher, arriving in the Majors in 1995 before finding his destiny in the bullpen.

"I remember where I came from and I never forget where I came from," said Rivera, who joins Rod Carew as the only Panamanian Hall of Famers. "I've always been a person that has respect for everybody, and being humble was something that I learned and appreciate back home. My humble beginnings, we didn't have much."

As the setup man for closer John Wetteland, Rivera enjoyed a dominant '96 season that helped give birth to a dynasty, as the Yankees won four of the next five World Series titles. Rivera took over as the full-time closer in 1997, the same year that the cutter first zipped out of his right hand while tossing with reliever Ramiro Mendoza across the turf of Tiger Stadium.

Summoned to the bullpen, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre observed Rivera's discovery, at first tinkering with his grip and arm angle in an effort to restore the ball's straight motion. After a couple of weeks, the Yankees realized how special Rivera's new pitch was, boring in on left-handed hitters and away from righties. It was a gift from the heavens, one that Rivera kept until the end.

"When I start thinking about it and put in perspective how I was able to dominate with one pitch, all I have to say is that I'm grateful to the Lord," Rivera said. "I have to thank the Lord for that, because He was just amazing. I can't think that such a thing like that can be possible, but it was possible with me. The Lord used me in amazing ways."

Rivera family celebrates election

Video: Mariano Rivera receives phone call on HOF election

The unflappable Rivera displayed his smooth, repeatable motion for the final outs of the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009 World Series, the only pitcher to throw the last pitches of more than two titles.

"He is absolutely the best," former teammate Paul O'Neill said. "I have said it many times -- we would never have had the run in the '90s without Mo. I don't know many people I respect more than Mariano, because of who he is and how he stayed who he was, even while being the best ever."

Said former teammate Andy Pettitte: "This is a pretty obvious statement, but I wouldn't want anyone else closing out a game that I started."

Video: Mariano Rivera reacts to being congratulated by Jeter

Even in rare defeats, Rivera stood apart: after permitting a Series-deciding hit to the D-backs' Luis Gonzalez in the 2001 Fall Classic, Rivera calmly sat at his locker until the final questions were answered.

"Mariano is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime pitcher, and the greatest closer to ever play the game of baseball," former teammate Jorge Posada said. "There was such a humility and grace to the way he did his job -- day after day and year after year. I'm so proud of everything he has accomplished, and I'm ecstatic that he and his family can celebrate this ultimate honor."

13 historic moments on mound for Mariano

Video: Rivera reacts to his unanimous election to the HOF

For a generation of fans, Rivera's entry signified dominance and -- more often than not -- victory. Early in 1999, Rivera's emergence from the right-field bullpen at Yankee Stadium began to be accompanied by the strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," a heavy-metal song that clashed with Rivera's Christian music preferences.

Yet the image of Rivera jogging to the mound, No. 42 stitched upon his back, made for tremendous theater. Exit light, enter night. Rivera never complained about the song, embracing the effusive reaction it produced from packed houses in The Bronx. Beloved for his consistency, Rivera saved at least 25 games in 15 consecutive seasons and posted a sub-2.00 ERA 11 times.

"I had the best seat in the house from center field, watching him pitch," Bernie Williams said. "It was mind-boggling to see him literally just mow down hitters. Mariano would cause more broken bats in one inning than most starters had in an entire game. If we had a lead in the ninth inning, the game was over."

At age 42, Rivera had privately decided that 2012 would be his final season, a plan that was altered that May when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament while tracking a fly ball during batting practice in Kansas City. Rivera vowed that he was "not going out like this," and his subsequent return in 2013 sparked a league-wide celebration.

Cue the 'Sandman': Mariano, Metallica song synonymous

Video: Metallica congratulates Rivera on HOF election

Each road trip prompted outpourings of love and respect for the hurler, who reciprocated by personally thanking fans and employees at each stop. Rivera spent time with groundskeepers, soldiers and students while receiving numerous gifts and donations for his foundation.

"No matter how big a star he became, he never failed to carry himself with unerring professionalism and class," general manager Brian Cashman said. "Mo was always someone who I could point to and say, 'That's what a Yankee should be like.'"

The Yankees held a fine celebration in late September, escorting Rivera to his rightful place in Monument Park while retiring his No. 42 for all time. Raising his palms with gratitude toward the Stadium's most distant seats on a sun-splashed afternoon, Rivera acknowledged the rhythmic chanting of his first name, and that his place among the legends was secure.

Now, as the first unanimous Hall of Famer, it is even more so.

"The Lord blessed me and opened a door for me to become the New York Yankees' closer," Rivera said. "We had 25 tremendous players, nine on the field and the others waiting on the bench to take action. I can never say that I accomplished [this on my own], because it would be impossible. We accomplished through all 25 players, and that is the beauty about it."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Mussina elected to HOF in sixth year on ballot

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

For one of the most accomplished pitchers of his generation, the climb to Cooperstown was methodical. On Tuesday, Mike Mussina completed that march toward immortality. The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Mussina into the Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted as part of a six-man class this July.

A model of consistency during his 18-year career, Mussina appeared on 326 of 425 ballots. That earned him 76.7 percent of vote, just past the 75 percent threshold for induction, in his sixth year of eligibility. His election puts a bow on a career Mussina essentially split between Baltimore and New York, winning 270 games, posting a 3.68 ERA and earning five All-Star selections.

For one of the most accomplished pitchers of his generation, the climb to Cooperstown was methodical. On Tuesday, Mike Mussina completed that march toward immortality. The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Mussina into the Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted as part of a six-man class this July.

A model of consistency during his 18-year career, Mussina appeared on 326 of 425 ballots. That earned him 76.7 percent of vote, just past the 75 percent threshold for induction, in his sixth year of eligibility. His election puts a bow on a career Mussina essentially split between Baltimore and New York, winning 270 games, posting a 3.68 ERA and earning five All-Star selections.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

Mussina will be enshrined alongside his former teammate in New York, Mariano Rivera -- who, in his first year of eligibility, became the first player ever to be selected unanimously -- as well as Mariners DH Edgar Martinez (85.4 percent), late Phillies and Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (85.4 percent), and Today's Game Era Committee selections Lee Smith and Harold Baines.

Video: Mike Mussina elected into Hall of Fame in 2019

"When you start doing this for a living, you don't ever think you'll be talking about the Hall of Fame," Mussina said. "I'm honored and thankful and blessed that a kid from the country got a chance to go out, play a game and accomplish something like this."

Complete Hall of Fame election results

A first-round Draft pick by the Orioles out of Stanford in 1990, Mussina spent much of the next two decades thriving as a pillar of dependability in the ultra-competitive American League East. From 1992-2008, Mussina ranked second among full-time starters in wins (266), third in starts (524) and innings (3,475), fifth in WAR (80.7), seventh in winning percentage (.643) and eighth in strikeout-to-walk rate (3.61). He is one of seven pitchers since 1969 to put together nine seasons of at least 200 innings and a 125 ERA+, and he did so during one of the most hitter-dominant eras in baseball history.

Moose's highlights on path to Cooperstown

Six of those campaigns came in Baltimore, where Mussina built a reputation as one of the game's smartest pitchers and fiercest competitors. He spent a decade with the Orioles, going 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA and finishing at least fifth in Cy Young Award voting five times. He also won the first four of his eventual seven Gold Gloves with the O's, and remains among qualified franchise leaders in a slew of major categories, including wins (third), starts (288, fifth) and WHIP (1.18, sixth).

Video: Mussina kicks off his HOF career with the Orioles

His production hardly wavered with the Yankees, who signed Mussina to a six-year, $88.5 million contract after the 2000 season. He'd go 123-72 with a 3.88 ERA across eight years in pinstripes.

"Unlike the big arms that dominate today's pitching landscape, Mike was a quintessential craftsman, who played up to his strengths and hunted for the weaknesses in his opposition -- before that level of preparation was a commonplace thing to do," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "More importantly though, he was a gamer, plain and simple. He wanted the ball, and did everything within his power to get himself ready to contribute."

• Power move on mound is memorable

Because of the symmetry of his production, which cap Mussina's plaque will be adorned with remains an open question.

"We got a little time to figure out what the best plan is," Mussina said. "I know a few guys have gone in without anything on their hat. Both organizations were tremendously valuable and important in my career. I wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for Baltimore and New York."

The right-hander was his reliable self in a significant postseason sample size, going 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA across 23 playoffs games (21 starts). Mussina served as the ace for playoff-bound teams in Baltimore in 1996 and 1997, and his playoff ERA shrunk to 2.53 in six starts for the O's. But his shining postseason moment may have been for the Yankees, when Mussina tossed three innings of scoreless relief to keep New York in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

"Moose was the most intelligent pitcher I ever caught," former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "He made catching fun, because he was so well prepared. When we took the field together, he was always two steps ahead of everyone else wearing a uniform."

Video: Mussina pitches 8 years with Yanks en route to HOF

In all, Mussina ranked among the AL's top 10 pitchers in bWAR 11 times, WHIP 12 times, strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings 10 times, and walks per nine and strikeout-to-walk ratio 15 times. He punctuated his career by becoming a 20-game winner for the first time, in 2008, at age 39. Mussina then promptly retired, 30 wins shy of 300 and 187 strikeouts away from 3,000.

But his inability to reach those milestones has mattered less and less to voters over the years, as the BBWAA's ever-progressive electorate grew to value more advanced statistics. Many point to markers like ERA+, WHIP, Fielding Independent Pitching and Wins Above Replacement as truer indicators of the value Mussina provided during the hitter-happy era in which he played.

Tweet from @baseballhall: You���ve made it to the top now, Moose! #HOF2019 pic.twitter.com/Mlo9irY86s

In many ways, the consistency with which Mussina's Hall case trended upward mirrored the steadiness of his on-field production. Support for Mussina grew regularly since he debuted with 20.3 percent in 2014, his first year on the ballot. That improved to 24.6 percent the following year before mushrooming to 43 percent in 2016. Mussina enjoyed bumps to 51.8 percent in 2017 and 63.5 percent in 2018. He earned 58 more votes this year, despite an increase of only three ballots cast.

"I'm honestly honored, surprised a little bit," Mussina said. "It's been a steady climb and I appreciate people staying with me, doing the research and feeling that I'm worthy of this honor."

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees

Mo, Moose padded Hall resumes in '03 ALCS

Newest HOFers sent Yanks past Sox in legendary Game 7
MLB.com @MikeLupica

This was a different kind of call on Tuesday night for the great Mariano Rivera, though he never really needed a call to the bullpen when it was his time of night, when it was time for him to grace another ninth inning with his cutter and his immense talent for throwing it. This, on Tuesday night, was the call that told him that he would not only enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, but he would enter as the first player in history to have received 100 percent of the vote.

So it was a different kind of closing for the greatest closer baseball has ever seen and might ever see. It was a night to honor all the days and nights when Mo was as good at his job as all the other famous Yankees had ever been at theirs, all the way back to Babe Ruth. It was about all the ninth innings and all the Octobers and the current of excitement that would run through the crowd at Yankee Stadium when the bullpen doors would open, "Enter Sandman" would play and No. 42 would come running out.

This was a different kind of call on Tuesday night for the great Mariano Rivera, though he never really needed a call to the bullpen when it was his time of night, when it was time for him to grace another ninth inning with his cutter and his immense talent for throwing it. This, on Tuesday night, was the call that told him that he would not only enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, but he would enter as the first player in history to have received 100 percent of the vote.

So it was a different kind of closing for the greatest closer baseball has ever seen and might ever see. It was a night to honor all the days and nights when Mo was as good at his job as all the other famous Yankees had ever been at theirs, all the way back to Babe Ruth. It was about all the ninth innings and all the Octobers and the current of excitement that would run through the crowd at Yankee Stadium when the bullpen doors would open, "Enter Sandman" would play and No. 42 would come running out.

Mo joked on MLB Network on Tuesday night about how he had pitched his way to Cooperstown with that cutter of his, how he could remember throwing one changeup his whole career. He said if something isn't broken, why fix it?

Then he smiled into the camera and said, "I knew where the pitch was going."

Video: Rivera reacts to his unanimous election to the HOF

And as he sat there and talked about his elegant baseball life and about making more history because of the vote, I remembered a night at the old Yankee Stadium, an October night in 2003, when Rivera was as great as he ever was. So was Mike Mussina. That is why it was so fitting that on the same night that Mo made it to Cooperstown, so did the former teammate who was known as Moose.

Suddenly on Tuesday night it was Game 7 against the Red Sox on Oct. 16, 2003, all over again. This was an amazing night of baseball and high drama from both of those teams, made even more amazing because Rivera wasn't the only pitcher who provided a defining moment in his Yankees career. Because Mussina did the exact same thing.

Video: BOS@NYY: Mo throws three scoreless innings in Game 7

Rivera would pitch the last three innings that night against the Red Sox, starting in the top of the ninth, his work not ending until Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield into the left-field seats in the bottom of the 11th. The Yankees needed more than one inning from Mo to stay in there against the Red Sox and make it to another World Series. They needed three.

Video: Mariano Rivera first to be unanimously elected to HOF

The next spring, I was sitting with Rivera at his locker. It was always the best seat in the house. In his quiet way, he understood baseball, the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates and the opposition as well as anyone I have ever met. He was just always more comfortable talking about everyone else than he was about himself.

We got around to talking about those three innings against the Red Sox, and finally I said, "You know, I've always wondered who was going to pitch the 12th if you guys didn't win the game when you did."

Rivera smiled, and leaned forward, as if telling me a secret.

"I was," he said. "I was going to pitch all night if I had to."

Video: 2003 ALCS Gm7: Mussina hurls three scoreless innings

But his three innings perhaps would not have mattered if Mussina did not come out of the bullpen in the fourth inning that night, the first relief appearance of his big league career, one of only two he would ever make.

"I didn't need Moose to give me the innings he usually gave me," Joe Torre told me once. "I just needed him to give me a few."

Video: Mussina pitches 8 years with Yanks en route to HOF

By then, we knew Rivera was on his way to Cooperstown someday. We were not so sure about Mussina, despite his own elegant career as a starter in Baltimore and then in New York, in the teeth of the era of performance-enhancing drugs and in a meat grinder known as the American League East. So we didn't know that on this unforgettable night of postseason baseball, of Yankees-Red Sox baseball in October, that we would get six Hall of Fame innings of relief from Mo and Moose.

Looking back, there was a beautiful symmetry to what we saw from both of them that night. Mussina pitched from the fourth through the top of the sixth. He held the Red Sox to two hits, and no runs, walked no one and struck out three. Rivera pitched the last three innings and gave up two hits and no runs, walked no one and struck out three.

Of course, there is so much to remember from both of them. I saw Rivera from the time he was a kid no one really knew much about when he was out in the bullpen in one of the best Division Series I have ever seen, Yankees-Mariners in 1995, a series that ended when Edgar Martinez, who also made the Hall on Tuesday night, knocked home Ken Griffey Jr. with the winning run. I saw Mussina come to New York after such a fine career in Baltimore and take it all on, the stakes and the stage and the city, and pitch with the same skill and creativity he had shown with the Orioles.

But the night to remember, for me, will always be that October night in '03. The greatest relief pitcher of them all was exactly that when the Yankees needed him most. Mussina was just as great out of the bullpen himself, because that's what Torre needed from him. Legends of the game, legends of that game, sharing one more baseball night.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

Pettitte needs Mussina-like rise in HOF voting

Like Hall-bound Moose, lefty gets modest support in first year
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- This summer's induction ceremonies will have a strong Yankees flavor at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where Mariano Rivera and Mike Mussina have been tabbed to deliver speeches and receive the sport's most prestigious honor.

With Derek Jeter set to appear on next year's Hall of Fame ballot, it is a near-certainty that Bombers fans can plan on seeing at least one more familiar face in the Class of 2020. Several other players with ties to the winningest franchise in professional sports had notable showings this year.

NEW YORK -- This summer's induction ceremonies will have a strong Yankees flavor at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where Mariano Rivera and Mike Mussina have been tabbed to deliver speeches and receive the sport's most prestigious honor.

With Derek Jeter set to appear on next year's Hall of Fame ballot, it is a near-certainty that Bombers fans can plan on seeing at least one more familiar face in the Class of 2020. Several other players with ties to the winningest franchise in professional sports had notable showings this year.

"They're my brothers," Rivera said, referring to his fellow "Core Four" members Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. "Besides my teammates, they're my brothers. We grew up together, came up with the organization to good things and bad things, and at the same time we were all together. It's amazing, the amount of respect and love that we have for each other."

In his first look from eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Pettitte appeared on 42 of a possible 425 ballots (9.9 percent), setting up what the 256-game winner could hope will be a Mussina-like climb toward induction.

Mussina was elected in his sixth try, getting 76.7 percent of the vote after receiving only 20.3 percent in his first year of eligibility. Rivera appeared on every ballot, making him the first unanimous electee.

Mo 1st unanimous Hall electee; 3 others voted in

Via the Yankees, Pettitte offered statements lauding the accomplishments of his former teammates.

"Mo, congrats on being a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Pettitte said. "What an honor it was playing alongside of you for all those years. When I look back on my career, many of my best memories directly involve you. This is a pretty obvious statement, but I wouldn't want anyone else closing out a game that I started. I never took for granted what you provided for each and every starting pitcher in our rotation.

"Congrats Moose. This is such a deserving honor. What you were able to accomplish while spending your entire career in the AL East was absolutely amazing. You were one of the best pitchers I've ever played with, and I was always in awe of the way you attacked hitters -- exploiting their weaknesses with control and precision of such an array of pitches. You were a true master of your craft."

Complete 2019 Hall of Fame election results

On the ballot for a seventh time, Roger Clemens appeared on 253 (59.5 percent), a slight uptick over the 57.3 percent that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner received in 2018.

Clemens spent six of his 24 big league seasons with the Yankees (1999-2003 and 2007), and though he would seem to be a shoo-in based solely upon his staggering statistics, his candidacy has been clouded by suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use.

"That kind of stuff is a touchy subject, and you're going to get opinions on every side of it," Mussina said. "I'm just glad that they thought I was worthy of going, and I think time will tell whether those guys get their opportunity. Obviously I played a couple years with Roger, and as a teammate it was great playing with him. He taught me a lot of stuff. It was just a great experience."

Gary Sheffield appeared on 58 ballots (13.6 percent), marking the power-hitting outfielder's fifth try for the Hall. Sheffield played three of his 22 big league seasons with the Yankees (2004-06), retiring with 509 home runs. Andruw Jones, who ended his 17-year career with the Yankees (2011-12), received 32 votes (7.5 percent) in his second year of eligibility.

Other former Yankees included on the ballot were: Lance Berkman (five votes, 1.2 percent), Freddy Garcia (no votes), Travis Hafner (no votes), Ted Lilly (no votes), Derek Lowe (no votes), Vernon Wells (no votes) and Kevin Youkilis (no votes). Players need at least 5 percent to return to the ballot the following year.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Near-perfection among Moose's many highlights

MLB.com @feinsand

Mike Mussina pitched 18 years in the Major Leagues, putting together a resume that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Mussina's journey -- which included a decade with the Orioles and eight seasons with the Yankees -- was filled with memorable moments, from dominant regular-season starts to stellar postseason outings. Here's a look at some of the highlights that made Moose a member of Cooperstown's Class of 2019.

Mike Mussina pitched 18 years in the Major Leagues, putting together a resume that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Mussina's journey -- which included a decade with the Orioles and eight seasons with the Yankees -- was filled with memorable moments, from dominant regular-season starts to stellar postseason outings. Here's a look at some of the highlights that made Moose a member of Cooperstown's Class of 2019.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

1. What a relief
Through the first 13 years of Mussina's career, all 400 of his appearances in the regular season and postseason had come as a starting pitcher. So when Joe Torre summoned the right-hander out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox -- with runners on the corners, nobody out and the Yankees trailing, 4-0, in the fourth -- it was anybody's guess how he would respond. Mussina escaped the jam without allowing another run, then threw two more scoreless frames to give the Yankees a chance to come back against Pedro Martinez. Four innings after Mussina departed the game, Aaron Boone's walk-off home run against Tim Wakefield won the pennant.

"That was my most exciting moment in New York," Mussina said after announcing his retirement.

Video: 2003 ALCS Gm7: Mussina hurls three scoreless innings

2. Grand finale
Mussina knew that his start on Sept. 28, 2008, would be the last of his career, and with 19 victories already under his belt that season, he had one last shot at securing the first 20-win campaign of his career. Mussina fired six shutout innings against the playoff-bound Red Sox at Fenway Park, then watched five relievers combine for the final nine outs to finish out the win. Mussina became the oldest first-time 20-game winner, then joined Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers in history to retire following a 20-win season.

Mussina's power move from mound a highlight

3. Postseason Moose arrives
Mussina hadn't been impressive in his first postseason in 1996, but the right-hander was dominant in 1997, posting a 1.24 ERA in four starts against the Mariners and Indians. After outpitching Randy Johnson in a pair of AL Division Series matchups, Mussina stepped it up to another level against Cleveland in the ALCS. He fanned 15 batters over seven innings in Game 3, then came back on three days' rest to toss eight shutout innings in Game 6. Unfortunately for Mussina, the Orioles' offense tallied just one run in the two games, slapping him with a pair of no-decisions as Baltimore lost the series in six games.

Video: 1997 ALCS Gm3: Mussina fans 15 Indians for LCS record

4. Fishing expedition
Mussina's lone World Series victory came in Game 3 of the 2003 Fall Classic, when he limited the Marlins to one run over seven innings in a duel with Josh Beckett. Mussina was lined up to pitch Game 7 at Yankee Stadium against future teammate Carl Pavano, but Beckett came back on short rest to end the Series in six games, leaving Mussina without a championship.

Video: WS2003 Gm3: Mussina K's Castillo to get out of 7th

Complete Hall of Fame election results

5. Nearly perfect
On May 30, 1997, Mussina retired the first 25 Indians hitters before giving up a one-out single by Sandy Alomar Jr., ending his perfect game bid. Mussina finished off his gem allowing one hit with 10 strikeouts in a 3-0 Orioles victory, one of four one-hit shutouts of his career.

Video: CLE@BAL: Moose completes a one-hit shutout

6. Nearly perfect ... again
Four years and three months after Mussina came within two outs of perfection, the right-hander took it one step further. Pitching in his first season with the Yankees, Mussina sat down the first 26 Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sept. 2, 2001, moving within one out of history. Mussina got ahead 1-2 against pinch-hitter Carl Everett before the outfielder broke up his bid with a two-strike single. Mussina finished off his one-hitter, striking out 13 in a 1-0 win over Boston.

Video: NYY@BOS: Everett breaks up Mussina's perfect game bid

7. Staying alive
The Yankees were three-time defending World Series champions when Mussina joined the team, but after the first two games of the 2001 ALDS, New York found itself one loss from elimination. Mussina kept the Yankees alive with seven shutout innings, beating Oakland's Barry Zito in a 1-0 duel. Oh yeah, Derek Jeter also made some kind of flip play in that game, too.

Video: Mussina pitches 8 years with Yanks en route to HOF

8. Fall Classic
Although Game 5 of the 2001 World Series will forever be remembered for Scott Brosius' game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth (and Alfonso Soriano's walk-off single in the 12th), Mussina did his part with an eight-inning, two-run, 10-strikeout performance. This was probably Mussina's best chance at a championship, but Mariano Rivera's blown save in Game 7 left the starter seeking that elusive ring.

9. Dazzling debut
Having been drafted out of Stanford with the 20th overall pick in 1990, Mussina made just 28 Minor League starts before being promoted to Baltimore for his big league debut at Comiskey Park on Aug. 4, 1991. Facing a lineup that included Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Frank Thomas, Mussina limited the White Sox to one run on four hits over 7 2/3 innings, but the 22-year-old lost a 1-0 decision as 43-year-old knuckleballer Charlie Hough threw a five-hit shutout.

10. Bronx cheer
For some players, the pressure that accompanies a big free-agent contract can be overwhelming -- especially in New York. Mussina didn't have those issues after inking a six-year, $88.5 million deal with the Yankees, making a strong first impression with the Bronx crowd. Mussina tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Royals at Yankee Stadium in his pinstriped debut, allowing five hits and no walks before handing a 1-0 lead to Rivera with two out in the eighth.

Video: KC@NYY: Mike Mussina's scoreless Yankees debut in '01

11. Going streaking
Only one man mattered on Sept. 6, 1995, as Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played streak and captured the imagination of baseball fans everywhere. Mussina won his 16th game of the season with 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Angels, becoming the answer to the trivia question: Who was the winning pitcher in Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game?

Video: Mussina kicks off his HOF career with the Orioles

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees

Yankees' rotation if season started today

MLB.com

We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day rotation will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day rotation will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are back for the start of another year, but the big question is, for how long? Both starters have been mentioned as possible trade candidates, and with just two years of control remaining, the rumors aren't going away any time soon. There has been a lot of turnover in the Toronto rotation lately and there will be even more soon. J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada are gone, while Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard and rookie Ryan Borucki are in. -- Gregor Chisholm

Rotation if season started today
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
3. Ryan Borucki, LHP
4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
5. Clayton Richard, LHP

Orioles
With statistically the worst rotation in 2018, the Orioles could return a unit entirely unchanged from a year ago. It is also a group that could look completely different by season's end. Dylan Bundy regressed mightily in his age-25 season, while Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb struggled to career-worst lines in their debut years in Baltimore. All are candidates to be dealt by summer's end, should they bounce back in some fashion.

But to start, as many as seven pitchers could be fighting for the final two spots. David Hess and Yefry Ramirez received the most work in 2018, but neither performed well enough to enter camp with starting jobs. Expect the likes of Jimmy Yacabonis, Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Hunter Harvey and Keegan Akin to get long looks this spring. -- Joe Trezza

Rotation if season started today
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Andrew Cashner, RHP
3. Alex Cobb, RHP
4. David Hess, RHP
5. Yefry Ramirez, RHP

Rays
The Rays will continue to use the "opener" in 2019, but it remains to be seen just how they plan on doing so heading into the season. Blake Snell, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, will serve as the team's ace. Charlie Morton, the team's big free-agent acquisition, will give the rotation a big boost and a much-needed veteran presence. Tyler Glasnow, who showed flashes of why he was once the No. 1 prospect in baseball, will slot in as the team's third starter. Now, once you get past that trio, there are a lot more questions for the Rays. Manager Kevin Cash said during the Winter Meetings that the team plans on using the opener twice in the rotation. However, it'll make sense for the Rays to split up the days where they plan on using an opener in order to keep the bullpen fresh. It'll be interesting to see what order the Rays ultimately go with, but one thing is certain: The opener is coming back. -- Juan Toribio

Rotation if season started today
1. Blake Snell, LHP
2. Charlie Morton, RHP
3. Opener
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
5. Opener

Video: Cash discusses increasing use of openers in baseball

Red Sox
The defending World Series-champion Red Sox are loaded in the rotation. Ace Chris Sale is healthy again after going though a prolonged bout of left shoulder inflammation last summer. Then again, Sale looked plenty healthy when he threw a wipeout slider to whiff Manny Machado and end the World Series. For the first time since he got to Boston, David Price enters the season with no questions about his ability to come through in high-pressure moments. Nobody was bigger for the Sox in October than the veteran lefty. Well, perhaps nobody but Nathan Eovaldi, the flame-throwing righty the Red Sox prioritized this offseason by re-signing him to a four-year, $68 million contract. Rick Porcello might never win a Cy Young Award again, but he is consistently durable and dependable and is entering the final season of his contract. Once again, Eduardo Rodriguez comes into Spring Training in hopes of that breakout year. He was plenty good when healthy in 2018. The presence of depth options Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Steven Wright will give manager Alex Cora the ability to rest his starters when healthy. -- Ian Browne

Rotation if season started today
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. David Price, LHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

Video: Sale says he feels 'normal again,' ready for spring

Yankees
The Yankees entered the winter aiming to add at least one top-of-the-rotation hurler, which they believe was accomplished by acquiring James Paxton from the Mariners in November. "Big Maple" projects to pair with Luis Severino to create a formidable one-two punch, though Paxton will need to remain healthy and Severino must cure the pitch-tipping ills that spoiled his second half. Masahiro Tanaka has been a reliable contributor through five big league seasons, and Happ seemed to instantly fit in after being acquired from the Blue Jays in July. After a scary health episode in December, CC Sabathia is looking to end his career on a high note. -- Bryan Hoch

Rotation if season started today
1. Luis Severino, RHP
2. James Paxton, LHP
3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
4. J.A. Happ, LHP
5. CC Sabathia, LHP

Video: Hoch analyzes the Yankees' starting rotation

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians
There have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Indians' starting rotation this offseason, but for now, both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer remain in Cleveland. Last season, the Tribe led all other starting staffs in Wins Above Replacement (22.9) for the second consecutive year, per FanGraphs, and is returning all five of its top 2018 hurlers. The club will also have options in Danny Salazar -- who missed last season due to right shoulder surgery -- once he is ready to rejoin the club, and Cody Anderson, who was sidelined the last two years from Tommy John surgery. If the rotation stays intact, it has the chance to be one of the most dominant in baseball once again with Kluber and Bauer being potential Cy Young Award contenders and Shane Bieber having a year of Major League experience under his belt. -- Mandy Bell

Rotation if season started today
1. Corey Kluber, RHP
2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
5. Shane Bieber, RHP

Royals
The Royals' front four of the rotation seem fairly set heading into Spring Training, though the order is anything but set. If Danny Duffy's offseason work is as promising as he suggests, he likely will claim the top spot and be the Opening Day starter. The emergence of Rule 5 Draft pick Brad Keller last year makes one believe he'll elevate to the No. 2 spot. Jakob Junis' strong finish suggests he'll claim the No. 3 spot. Ian Kennedy also finished well, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise if at some point the Royals utilized him as a late-inning guy. The fifth spot will be the fun battle in Spring Training, although the PED suspension of left-hander Eric Skoglund narrows the rotation. That No. 5 spot probably comes down to Jorge Lopez (who nearly threw a perfect game last season), Heath Fillmyer and a host of other candidates, including Glenn SparkmanArnaldo Hernandez and Trevor Oaks. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

Rotation if season started today
1. Danny Duffy, LHP
2. Brad Keller, RHP
3. Jakob Junis, RHP
4. Ian Kennedy, RHP
5. Jorge Lopez, RHP

Tigers
Take three established starters who form the core of the Tigers' rotation and add two free-agent signings looking for career rebounds. Top it off with a young pitcher or two who could work their way into full-time starting roles but could also serve as depth for injuries or versatile swingmen in the bullpen. It's a formula the Tigers used to build their rotation a year ago. It's a formula they'll use again for 2019.

Replace Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano with Matt Moore and Tyson Ross, and the Tigers' projected rotation looks similar to last year. Matthew Boyd has blossomed into a potential front-line workhorse with a breakthrough 2018 season. Michael Fulmer is again trying to bounce back from surgery, this time to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Jordan Zimmermann is recovering from core muscle repair surgery, but his arm appears to be fine. Daniel Norris again has a chance to prove himself but seems poised to reprise a spot starter/relief role following the Moore and Ross signings. Spencer Turnbull could be in line for a similar fit after an encouraging September stretch in the rotation, or he could serve as insurance at Triple-A Toledo.

With five highly ranked starting pitching prospects on the way, the Tigers could have a vastly different rotation in a couple of years. For now, however, there's some stability in the top half. -- Jason Beck

Rotation if season started today
1. Matthew Boyd, LHP
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP
3. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
4. Matt Moore, LHP
5. Tyson Ross, RHP

Video: Boyd reflects on 2018, looks forward to 2019

Twins
Four of the Twins' starting spots for 2019 were all but set entering the offseason. At the top is 24-year-old Jose Berrios, who is coming off his first 200-strikeout season and supported by the experienced Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, who had his long-awaited breakout last season. Michael Pineda is also expected to hold down a rotation spot in his return from Tommy John surgery, as the Twins hope that he can regain the pre-injury form that netted him the American League's most strikeouts per nine innings in '16.

While there are several options on the roster for Minnesota's unclaimed fifth rotation spot, the Twins are reportedly adding left-hander Martin Perez, a veteran of seven Major League seasons, who could emerge as the candidate to hold down the position until the organization's young pitching prospects are more ready to establish themselves at the MLB level. Fernando Romero and Adalberto Mejia could also be in the conversation, and Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Chase De Jong should also push for consideration. -- Do-Hyoung Park

Rotation if season started today
1. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
5. Martin Perez, LHP

Video: Twins reportedly sign Martin Perez to 1-year deal

White Sox
If Michael Kopech didn't suffer a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament at the end of the 2018 season and lose his '19 season to recovery from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox rotation would look quite a bit different. If Dylan Cease, the reigning MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year, continues the great progression he showed in '18, he could be the final piece of the rotation sooner than later.

The White Sox have Manny Banuelos, Carson Fulmer, Dylan Covey and Jordan Stephens battling for that fifth spot. But if the White Sox add another veteran hurler, that move would change the look of the starting staff.

There are rotation certainties heading into the season. Carlos Rodon could make his first Opening Day start as he enters the 2019 campaign fully healthy. Ivan Nova is a solid innings eater added to the middle of the rotation, and Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito will take what they learned in their first full seasons and try to make a step up in '19. -- Scott Merkin

Rotation if season started today
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Manny Banuelos, LHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels
The Angels are counting on talented lefties Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs to lead the rotation, but they've had injury concerns in recent years, so keeping them healthy will be key. They added Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill via free agency on one-year deals to add depth, as Shohei Ohtani isn't pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery. They're hoping for a bounce-back season from Harvey, who pitched better after being traded to the Reds. Cahill is coming off one of his better seasons, turning in a 3.76 ERA with the A's. Right-hander Jaime Barria had a solid rookie season in 2018, posting a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts, and is the front-runner for the fifth spot. Others in the mix include Nick Tropeano, Felix Pena and Dillon Peters until highly regarded prospects Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez are ready for the Majors. -- Rhett Bollinger

Rotation if season started today
1. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
3. Matt Harvey, RHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
5. Jaime Barria, RHP

Astros
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both finished in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting last year, so that's a great place to start. Collin McHugh is back in the rotation following a terrific season out of the bullpen. The Astros are in pursuit of a veteran starting pitcher to add to the mix, but for now they have promising youngsters Josh James and Framber Valdez in the rotation. Top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley should make his debut at some point in 2019, but another veteran arm is desired. -- Brian McTaggart

Rotation if season started today
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP
3. Collin McHugh, RHP
4. Josh James, RHP
5. Framber Valdez, LHP

Video: McHugh analyzes his important role with the Astros

Athletics
This is merely guesswork at this juncture of the offseason. The A's desperately need more starters to bolster this unit, which features little experience outside of the seasoned Fiers, and they're expected to find those add-on pieces in the coming weeks. Jesus Luzardo, of course, is the most intriguing name among this bunch; the A's anticipate their top pitching prospect to break camp with the big-league club. Elsewhere, Daniel Mengden, Chris Bassitt and Paul Blackburn represent the top in-house rotation options at this point, with Frankie Montas and Aaron Brooks acting as depth behind them. -- Jane Lee

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Fiers, RHP
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP
3. Daniel Mengden, RHP
4. Chris Bassitt, RHP
5. Paul Blackburn, RHP

Mariners
With Felix Hernandez coming off the worst season of his 14-year career (8-14, 5.55 ERA) and Paxton traded to the Yankees this offseason, the Mariners' rotation is a bit of a mystery at the top end. Should the club decide to end Hernandez's streak of 10 consecutive Opening Day starts, the likely options are up-and-coming lefty Marco Gonzales or newly signed Japanese free agent Yusei Kikuchi.

But with one remaining year at $27 million on his contract, Hernandez still figures to get a shot at fitting somewhere in the mix and the club also returns veterans Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc, both coming off solid seasons. Clearly the future is knocking on the door, however, as newly acquired prospects Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Erik Swanson are all potential additions at some point this year. -- Greg Johns

Rotation if season started today
1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
3. Mike Leake, RHP
4. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
5. Felix Hernandez, RHP

Video: Mariners could be creative with Kikuchi's workload

Rangers
The Rangers could have a set rotation in place right now if they are content to go into the season with three starters who underwent Tommy John surgery within the last two years.

That's the mystery surrounding the Rangers with less than a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. The Rangers have five veteran starters in place, but they all have undergone significant physical issues recently in their careers. It would seem unlikely that the Rangers would go to camp without at least adding more depth. -- T.R. Sullivan

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Minor, LHP 
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Drew Smyly, LHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Shelby Miller, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves
With Sonny Gray going to the Reds, it looks like the Braves may enter Spring Training without making a rotation addition. Mike Foltynewicz performed like a front-line starter last year, and Sean Newcomb has the capability to make a similar leap this year. Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran provided quality depth to this group, which could be enriched by a healthy Mike Soroka and a further-developed Touki Toussaint. Soroka, Toussaint and Kyle Wright are among the Braves prospects who could share the fifth spot on an alternating basis during the early part of the season. -- Mark Bowman

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. TBD

Video: Newcomb, Soroka, Minter and Venters at Chop Fest

Marlins
How the rotation goes will largely determine how long the Marlins' rebuilding process takes. Based on talent and depth, there are many interesting options for Miami, either starters who will be on the Opening Day roster or join the rotation over the course of the season. Jose Urena has cemented himself as the ace. Dan Straily is an experienced right-hander and Wei-Yin Chen is projected to be the lone left-hander. If Straily isn't dealt before Spring Training, he profiles as the No. 2 starter. Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez made starts as rookies in 2018. But Smith missed the second half due to surgery to repair a left pectoral muscle, and Lopez missed all of September with a shoulder issue. -- Joe Frisaro

Rotation if season started today
1. Jose Urena, RHP
2. Dan Straily, RHP
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP
5. Trevor Richards, RHP

Mets
The Mets' rotation won't feature any surprises. Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, will start on Opening Day. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz will file in behind him, looking for healthy seasons. The Mets will round out their starting five with Jason Vargas, who rebounded from a poor first half to give the Mets confidence in him heading into 2019. -- Anthony DiComo

Rotation if season started today
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP
2. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP
4. Steven Matz, LHP
5. Jason Vargas, LHP

Video: deGrom wins the 2018 NL Cy Young Award

Nationals
"Starting pitching is king," general manager Mike Rizzo proclaimed at the start of December, before he began revamping a rotation that disappointed the Nationals last season. First, the Nats added the top free-agent starting-pitching prize in Patrick Corbin and followed it up by signing the resurgent Anibal Sanchez, fresh off a breakout 2018 that resurrected his career. Those additions combined with perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer and the dominant when healthy Stephen Strasburg should give Washington one of the best rotations in the National League. -- Jamal Collier

Rotation if season started today
1. Max Scherzer, RHP
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3. Patrick Corbin, LHP
4. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
5. Joe Ross, RHP

Phillies
The Phillies could open the 2019 season with the same rotation that finished 2018, which has the front office feeling OK and fans a little nervous. Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez pitched well through early August before struggling mightily the final two months of the season. The front office believes the group will be better, based on experience and a 3.76 FIP, which ranked seventh in baseball last season. But the front office also acknowledges what fans wonder: Is it a risk? There is a reason the Phillies pursued Corbin and Happ this winter. It is why there remains an outside chance they take a run at free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel-- Todd Zolecki

Rotation if season started today
1. Aaron Nola, RHP
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP
3. Nick Pivetta, RHP
4. Zach Eflin, RHP
5. Vince Velasquez, RHP

Video: Aaron Nola on veteran help, Phils' comeback season

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers
Predicting a five-man rotation for the Brewers under David Stearns and Craig Counsell is a challenge. Last season, they employed 11 starting pitchers, including seven who made double-digit starts. In 2017, 13 pitchers started games for the Brewers. That's in part by design. For example, last winter's consensus was that the Brewers needed a front-line starter and should spend big for a free agent the likes of Yu Darvish. Instead, Stearns signed Jhoulys Chacin to a two-year deal and built a rotation short on "aces" but long on depth, and those arms took the Brewers to within one victory of the World Series.

There is still time for acquisitions, but it appears the Brewers plan to employ the same strategy in 2019. Chacin leads the way, followed by a group of established pitchers aiming for bounce-back seasons and some up-and-comers seeking to build on 2018 success. We'll stretch the list to seven pitchers positioned to make more than a start or two. -- Adam McCalvy

Rotation if season started today
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Chase Anderson, RHP
3. Zach Davies, RHP
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
6. Corbin Burnes, RHP
7. Freddy Peralta, RHP

Cardinals
Options are plentiful as the Cardinals begin to piece together their starting rotation. Miles Mikolas will return as the likely Opening Day starter and anchor what could be an entirely right-handed unit. The first four spots seem solidified, barring injury, and Adam Wainwright will have the inside track for the fifth. If the Cards need to go further down the depth chart, they have several other starting candidates in John Gant, Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Alex Reyes and Daniel Ponce de Leon-- Jenifer Langosch

Rotation if season started today
1. Miles Mikolas, RHP
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP
4. Michael Wacha, RHP
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP

Video: Cardinals' 2019 rotation starting to take shape

Cubs
The Cubs' projected starting five average 32 years old with nearly nine years of MLB experience. They are experienced and capable of logging the kind of innings that could alleviate some of the uncertainty in the bullpen. Darvish, who was limited to eight starts last year due to injury, will be the wild card. But all indications are that he is healthy and Darvish said last week that he will be unrestricted this spring with Opening Day as a realistic goal. With all five starters issue-free, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood would become relief options. -- Jordan Bastian

Rotation if season started today
1. Jon Lester, LHP
2. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
3. Cole Hamels, LHP
4. Yu Darvish, RHP
5. Jose Quintana, LHP

Video: NL WC: Lester fans 9 in 1-run outing vs. the Rockies

Pirates
The Pirates might have one of the game's most underrated rotations after adding Chris Archer in the middle of a breakout season for both Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams. A full year of Archer should help, and they would benefit from a healthy Joe Musgrove as well. Taillon and Williams must prove their improvements were sustainable. Free agent acquisition Jordan Lyles, who tweaked his pitch usage last season, looks like the early favorite for the fifth spot over lefty Steven Brault and out-of-options righty Nick Kingham. -- Adam Berry

Rotation if season started today
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trevor Williams, RHP
4. Joe Musgrove, RHP
5. Jordan Lyles, RHP

Reds
The Reds wanted to put their rebuilding efforts fully behind them, but they knew they couldn't get far without improving their rotation. Cincinnati, which ranked 14th out of 15 clubs in starter ERA last season, didn't just make tweaks; it was instead a big overhaul with three winter trades bringing in Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. Whether the Reds can fully contend in '19 after four straight 90-plus-loss seasons remains to be seen, but they should definitely pitch better. -- Mark Sheldon

Rotation if season started today
1. Sonny Gray, RHP
2. Tanner Roark, RHP
3. Alex Wood, LHP
4. Luis Castillo, RHP
5. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP

Video: Gray traded to Reds in three-team deal

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs
The rotation, which was a team strength in 2018, will be without Corbin and Clay Buchholz in 2019, but the D-backs still have Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray and expect to get Taijuan Walker back from Tommy John surgery. To build some depth behind Greinke, Ray and Zack Godley, the D-backs acquired right-hander Luke Weaver from the Cardinals in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, and they signed righty Merrill Kelly, who spent the past four seasons pitching in Korea.

Arizona does have some depth at the top end of the farm system in Matt Koch, Taylor Widener and Jon Duplantier among others. -- Steve Gilbert

Rotation if season started today
1. Zack Greinke, RHP
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
3. Zack Godley, RHP
4. Luke Weaver, RHP
5. Merrill Kelly, RHP

Dodgers
To those worked up over whether the top two on this list should be reversed, what a fantastic dilemma that is. Not making the top-five cut for now are Julio Urias and Ross Stripling, another high-quality surplus. Even without Kluber, who has been tied to the Dodgers in trade rumors all winter, Los Angeles' starting rotation is the envy of most clubs. -- Ken Gurnick

Rotation if season started today
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Walker Buehler, RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
4. Rich Hill, LHP
5. Kenta Maeda, RHP

Video: Watch some of the Dodgers' nastiest pitches from 2018

Giants
Madison Bumgarner has been the subject of numerous trade rumors this offseason, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said he isn't making any outgoing calls regarding the club's longtime ace, so he remains in line to be the Giants' Opening Day starter. The Giants will miss Johnny Cueto, who will be unavailable for most of the season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but they added some durability to their rotation by re-signing Derek Holland last week. Jeff Samardzija is a bit of a question mark after struggling with a persistent right shoulder issue in 2018, though he is progressing well in his throwing program. Despite their impressive rookie campaigns, Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez aren't necessarily locks for the Opening Day rotation, as the Giants would prefer to ease pressure on their young arms by having them begin the year in the bullpen or in the Minors. -- Chris Haft

Rotation if season started today
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
4. Andrew Suarez, LHP
5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP

Video: A look back at Madison Bumgarner's 2018 season

Padres
It seems likely the Padres add another arm to this mix before the start of Spring Training. Their rotation posted the highest ERA in the NL last year, and Garrett Richards has been the only addition. He might not even pitch this season. Still, it's clear San Diego wants to give its young arms a chance. Logan Allen and Jacob Nix will compete for places this spring, while Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer could headline the rotation. Meanwhile, keep an eye on left-hander Matt Strahm, who was outstanding in the 'pen last season in his return from knee surgery. The Padres have asked him to bulk up for a transition into a starting role. If his body holds up, he's got front-of-the-rotation stuff. -- AJ Cassavell

Rotation if season started today
1. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
2. Eric Lauer, LHP
3. Robbie Erlin, LHP
4. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
5. Matt Strahm, LHP

Rockies
Rare in the Rockies' history have they had such quality and depth. Lefty Kyle Freeland finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award balloting, righty German Marquez finished eighth in the NL in strikeouts, and hopes are high for lefty Tyler Anderson after he set career highs for innings pitched and strikeouts last season. Jon Gray is trying to rebound from a season that saw him optioned to the Minors and left off the postseason roster, and Chad Bettis hopes blister problems that marred his 2018 season are in the past. But the listed rotation is not chiseled in granite. Pushing hard for jobs are righties Antonio Senzatela, who started last year's NL Division Series opener; righty Jeff Hoffman, who suffered a shoulder injury last spring and never had a chance to challenge for a job; and righty prospect Peter Lambert, who climbed to Triple-A last season at age 21. -- Thomas Harding

Rotation if season started today
1. Kyle Freeland, LHP
2. German Marquez, RHP
3. Tyler Anderson, LHP
4. Jon Gray, RHP
5. Chad Bettis, RHP

Rivera's family super hyped about his selection

Mariano Rivera's election to the Hall of Fame Tuesday evening was the least shocking and most predictable baseball thing we've seen in a long time. The dude was no doubt the greatest closer ever and everyone knew that he'd get in to Cooperstown on his first go-round.

Cue the 'Sandman': Mariano, song synonymous

MLB.com @BryanHoch

This story originally ran on Sept. 15, 2011

The opening chords of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blare over the Yankee Stadium sound system, and by the time the drums kick in 15 seconds later, everyone in the building knows what is about to happen.

This story originally ran on Sept. 15, 2011

The opening chords of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blare over the Yankee Stadium sound system, and by the time the drums kick in 15 seconds later, everyone in the building knows what is about to happen.

Mariano Rivera's theatrical entrance is one of the most recognizable in all of professional sports, but as the Yankees' closer approaches the all-time saves mark, he admits he doesn't even listen to the song.

• Mo 1st in history to be unanimous Hall electee

"I never said that I didn't like it, but I didn't care about the song," Rivera said. "I didn't pick the song. I don't pay attention to the music. When I go in there, I'm going to business. I have a job to do, that's it."

So if Rivera didn't make himself the Sandman, who did?

• Metallica congratulates Rivera on Hall of Fame election

According to Michael Bonner, the Yankees' senior director of scoreboard and broadcasting, Trevor Hoffman inadvertently had a hand.

Attending the Padres' run to the World Series in San Diego back in 1998, members of the Yankees' upper brass saw how enthusiastically the crowd reacted when Hoffman entered to AC/DC's "Hells Bells."

"The Yankees executives who were there saw the great entrance and said, 'Wow, we need something like that for Mo,'" Bonner said.

• Timeline on Mariano's illustrious career

Bonner started with the team in 1999, so among the first orders issued to him and scoreboard director Joe Pullia were to find a suitable song that would accompany Rivera on his charge out of the bullpen.

Before "Enter Sandman," two Guns 'N' Roses songs -- "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City" -- were actually used in games early in 1999, to lukewarm reception.

"It just didn't have that feel," Bonner said.

• 13 historic moments on the mound for Mo

Mike Luzzi, then a freelance crew member with the scoreboard team who was also working at MTV, agreed.

"They were trying a bunch of different songs, and I remember yelling at the guys, 'Nobody's going to catch on to this. It's not working,'" Luzzi said.

So on a Saturday morning, Luzzi lugged his own CD case to Yankee Stadium from Manhattan, pointing to Metallica's self-titled 1991 album and suggesting everyone listen to the first track on the disc.

Tweet from @Yankees: Enter the Greatest. pic.twitter.com/0E3CYd2VqB

"We needed something cooler, more ominous," said Luzzi, now a vice president at Turner Sports. "Our job was to try and get the building rocking. The gist of it worked, beginning to put the other club to sleep."

The opening lyrics seemed appropriate to accompany Rivera's now-legendary cutter: "Say your prayers little one, don't forget my son, to include everyone, I tuck you in, warm within, keep you free from sin, 'til the Sandman he comes."

"So we used it that game, and it just had that feel -- the entrance, the way everything comes on," Bonner said. "That was it; that was his song. It stuck from that point on."

Tweet from @MLBStats: In the postseason, it was off to Never Never Land. #HOF2019 pic.twitter.com/uhxefnEkWV

In the years since, Rivera and "Enter Sandman" have become intertwined. Though Metallica isn't his style -- he prefers Christian music -- Rivera met lead singer James Hetfield before a 2005 game and sometimes inks autographs using the song's name as an inscription.

When the Mets signed Billy Wagner as their closer in 2006, there was actually a stir that Wagner would dare to use Rivera's entrance song in the same city (in fairness, Wagner also began using "Enter Sandman" in 1999 with the Astros), but Rivera didn't mind.

"It's not part of my identity," Rivera said. "People identify it [with me], but that's it. I wouldn't say that's my identity. To tell you the truth, I have to do one thing. I go out there and pitch."

Tweet from @MLBStats: UnaniMOus, for the greatest closer of all-time. #HOF2019 pic.twitter.com/OSEtHuNdMa

When Rivera says that the song is not a big deal to him, Bonner believes it.

"For years, he couldn't tell you the name of the song, he couldn't tell you that it was Metallica," Bonner said. "I used to tease him when he'd ask me for something, and I'd say, 'All right, that's it, I'm not going to use "Enter Sandman" anymore.' And he was like, 'I don't care.' I think the fans care about it more."

The fans do love it, and the band has also embraced the connection.

Tweet from @Cut4: Mariano Rivera was truly out of this world.More people have walked on the moon (12) than men who have scored against Mariano Rivera in the postseason (11). #HOF2019 pic.twitter.com/LeHYsa1Ou8

When Metallica played the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert at Madison Square Garden in October 2009, their representatives called the Yankees for footage of Rivera's entrance that could accompany the song.

But once Rivera is no longer closing games for the Yankees, Bonner said, the song will be retired at Yankee Stadium along with him.

"I've got to tell you, after Mo is gone, we won't use that for anyone else," Bonner said. "It's meant for the greatest of all time."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Mussina once told Joe Torre to stay in dugout

On Tuesday, the news came down that Mike Mussina was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of a 2019 class that also includes slugger Edgar Martinez, the late Roy Halladay and historically dominant reliever Mariano Rivera. 

For Mussina, this was a long time coming, but it isn't that much of a surprise to anybody who watched him pitch throughout his 18-year career, all of which was spent with either the Orioles or Yankees. He was a fierce, confident competitor on the mound, the type you wouldn't want to cross when he was in his element. And though he came up short in a couple no-hit bids and never won a Cy Young, he was 270-153 with a 3.68 career ERA. 

Timeline of Mariano's illustrious career

Baseball's all-time saves leader racked up five World Series rings in pinstripes
MLB.com @BryanHoch

Mariano Rivera knew that he had thrown the final pitch of his illustrious career, and the newest Hall of Famer was fighting off what he would describe as "a bombardment of emotions" as he spotted two familiar figures approaching the mound. The greatest reliever that the game will ever know had to laugh.

Here came Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, clad in sweatshirts and deputized by their manager, Joe Girardi, to retrieve the baseball. Rivera heard Jeter say that it was "time to go," and that was all Rivera could handle. He buried his face in Pettitte's shoulder and sobbed deeply, hugging his teammate for what felt like an eternity. Rivera called it a "blessed" moment.

Mariano Rivera knew that he had thrown the final pitch of his illustrious career, and the newest Hall of Famer was fighting off what he would describe as "a bombardment of emotions" as he spotted two familiar figures approaching the mound. The greatest reliever that the game will ever know had to laugh.

Here came Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, clad in sweatshirts and deputized by their manager, Joe Girardi, to retrieve the baseball. Rivera heard Jeter say that it was "time to go," and that was all Rivera could handle. He buried his face in Pettitte's shoulder and sobbed deeply, hugging his teammate for what felt like an eternity. Rivera called it a "blessed" moment.

"I was surprised, but at the same time, grateful that those two guys were walking towards me to get me out and being there with me, for me, when I needed them the most," Rivera recalled shortly after learning he'd become the first unanimous Hall of Fame electee in history. "It was amazing. It was so powerful that every time that I see that moment, it brings me to emotion. That was a powerful moment for me."

There was no save to record, not even a lead to protect. It took 1,115 appearances, 652 of which resulted in saves, plus all of those great moments in the postseason. Finally, the magnitude of a moment had jangled Rivera's steely nerves.

"Being able to finish the way the Lord allowed me to finish, it was spectacular," Rivera said.

Nov. 29, 1969: Rivera is born in Panama City, Panama, to parents Mariano Sr. and Delia. At the time of his retirement in 2013, he will be the final active player to have been born in the 1960s.

Feb. 17, 1990: The Yankees sign a 20-year-old Rivera as an amateur free agent for a $3,000 bonus. He makes his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League later that summer.

May 23, 1995: Now 25, Rivera makes his Major League debut, starting against the Angels in Anaheim. He strikes out the first two batters but lasts only 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and eight hits -- including a three-run homer to Jim Edmonds -- in a 10-0 loss.

May 28, 1995: In his second start, Rivera earns his first victory, working 5 1/3 innings of one-run, seven-hit ball in a 4-1 win over the Athletics in Oakland.

May 17, 1996: Now working exclusively out of the bullpen, Rivera pitches a scoreless ninth inning in an 8-5 victory over the Angels, recording his first Major League save. Pettitte got the win; they'd go on to combine for 72 win/saves, a big league record.

Oct. 26, 1996: With the Yankees on the precipice of their first World Series title since 1978, Rivera retires six of the seven Braves he faces before handing off Game 6 to closer John Wetteland, who records the save in New York's 3-2 victory.

Dec. 17, 1996: Coming off an exceptional season in which he hurled 107 2/3 innings and finished third in the Cy Young voting, Rivera is promoted from setup man to closer as Wetteland agrees to a four-year, $23 million contract with the Rangers.

June 1997: Rivera experiences what he would later call "a gift from God," seeing his fastball dart violently during a game of catch with reliever Ramiro Mendoza. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre helps him refine what will become known as his cutter.

Oct. 5, 1997: Five outs separated the Yankees from advancing past the Indians in the American League Division Series, but Sandy Alomar Jr. stuns New York with an eighth-inning homer off Rivera. The Yanks lost that game and the series; Rivera would only allow one other homer in 141 postseason innings.

Oct. 21, 1998: The Yankees cap a franchise-record 114-win regular season by steamrolling the Padres in the World Series. Rivera puts the final touch on the title, getting Mark Sweeney to ground out to third baseman Scott Brosius.

Video: WS1998 Gm4: Yankees sweep Padres, win World Series

Oct. 27, 1999: The Yankees win their second straight title, and third in four years, as Rivera gets Keith Lockhart to fly out to left fielder Chad Curtis, completing a sweep of the Braves. Rivera is named the World Series MVP, working 4 2/3 scoreless innings over three appearances.

Oct. 26, 2000: Rivera gets Mike Piazza to fly out to center fielder Bernie Williams, securing the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the Mets in Game 5 of the "Subway Series" World Series. It is Rivera's seventh World Series save, a new record.

Video: WS2000 Gm5: Sterling, Kay call final out

Nov. 4, 2001: Rivera falters in Game 7 of the World Series against Arizona, committing a throwing error on a Damian Miller bunt, then surrendering a game-tying double to Tony Womack. The Series is decided when Luis Gonzalez bloops a deciding single over the drawn-in infield. It is Rivera's only loss in 96 postseason appearances.

Oct. 16, 2003: As Aaron Boone rounds the bases for his pennant-clinching home run to defeat the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, Rivera races to the mound and kisses the Yankee Stadium pitching rubber. Rivera is named the MVP of the ALCS after posting a 1.13 ERA over eight innings.

May 28, 2004: Rivera works a scoreless ninth inning in a 7-5 victory over the Devil Rays, becoming the first Yankee and 17th big leaguer to record 300 saves.

Oct. 17, 2004: After attending a funeral in Panama earlier in the week, Rivera blows the save in Game 4 of the ALCS against Boston. Though the Yankees are still up in the series, 3-1, the Red Sox win the next three contests en route to a curse-breaking title.

July 16, 2006: Rivera seals a 6-4 victory over the White Sox for his 400th career save.

June 28, 2009: In one of his seven career plate appearances, Rivera earns his first and only career RBI with a bases-loaded walk off Francisco Rodriguez. He then finishes off a 4-2 victory over the Mets, joining Trevor Hoffman as the only members of the 500-save club.

Nov. 4, 2009: The final five outs belong to Rivera as the Yankees secure their 27th and most recent World Series championship. Rivera gets the Phillies' Shane Victorino to chop a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano for the final out in a 7-3 victory. No other pitcher has recorded the final out of more than two Fall Classics.

May 25, 2011: Rivera becomes the 15th player to pitch in 1,000 career games, logging the final three outs of a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.

Sept. 13, 2011: Rivera records his 600th career save, sealing a 3-2 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.

Sept. 17, 2011: Rivera equals Hoffman for the all-time saves record with his 601st save, protecting a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Sept. 19, 2011: Riv