Amid Internet campaign to grant him honor, Rivera more comfortable closing
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera is flattered by the notion that he could start the All-Star Game. But it's not really something he wants to do. Rivera, Major League Baseball's all-time leader in saves (624) and games finished (910), said Thursday that he'd prefer to stay in his comfort zone.
"It would mess up everything," said Rivera of starting. "It would be the first time I've started, I think, since 1995. I don't think it would be right. I'd rather close the game than start the game."
Rivera, a 12-time All-Star, was asked about the Midsummer Classic because of a growing Internet campaign to get him the start. The 43-year-old announced in Spring Training that this would be his last season, and every final trip to a road city has brought fanfare and gestures of appreciation.
The right-hander made just nine appearances last year before a knee injury ended his season prematurely, and he's gone 16-of-16 in save opportunities in 2013, heading into Thursday's finale against the Mariners. This year's All-Star Game will be at Citi Field, which would give Rivera another spot on the national stage in New York.
And if Rivera got the start, it could mean that he'd be matched up against Mets ace Matt Harvey, providing a stellar local storyline. Rivera said Thursday that he respects the way Harvey has burst on the scene and that he wouldn't want to detract from his moment.
"I do respect everyone trying to do it," said Rivera of the potential start. "But first of all, I have to be there first. Second of all, I don't start. That's not what I do. I know they want to honor me for my career, and I know it's here in New York. But the thing is, I wouldn't be comfortable making a start."
Rivera came up through the Yankees' system as a starting pitcher, and he made 10 starts as a rookie during the 1995 campaign. But since then, it's been all relief. Rivera has made 1,050 appearances since the start of the 1996 season -- all in relief -- and he's notched a 2.02 ERA in that span.
This year, Rivera has a 1.56 ERA, and he's struck out 13 batters while walking only two. Rivera has posted an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, and manager Joe Girardi was asked Thursday about how he's been able to maintain his dominance so much longer than the average closer.
"I don't really see a whole lot of difference in Mo from year to year," said Girardi, who caught Rivera during his playing career before later managing him. "You look at his numbers, and they're consistent every year. ... The one thing that Mo has consistently done in his career is stay in shape.
"Knock on wood, you don't see Mo get in too many innings where he throws 20 pitches. And I think that allows him to bounce back easier than a lot of other relievers. [He throws] one pitch. It's his fastball, and he's very consistent with it. I think it just helps him bounce back day after day. And I think being able to just throw the one pitch, maybe it doesn't take as much toll on your body."