Mariano Rivera has always been his own sort of rock star, and honestly, wouldn’t it be awesome if the Yankees began selling a Rivera Farewell Tour t-shirt? Make it look like band t-shirts we’ve all seen, then put the dates of each road series on the back as if it’s the summer leg of the latest Dave Matthews Band circuit. I don’t own a single Yankees shirt, but I think I’d buy that one. It’s been a tour worth seeing.
Yesterday, Rivera made his final appearance in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Each road city either has or will honor Rivera this season, but the Indians knocked it out of the park by presenting a gold record of Enter Sandman.
“Without singing, I have a gold record,” Rivera said.
Out to dinner with Mark Feinsand and Dan Barbarisi last night, we were talking about how much Rivera seems to be really appreciating and enjoying this last trip around the league. His meetings with fans and employees have been remarkable in a uniquely Rivera way. He’s being celebrated, which is both unnecessary and a no-brainer.
“It’s a different feeling, knowing that I’ve been playing for 19 years,” Rivera said. “Every year you know that, God-willing, you’ll be back there. This time it’s different. This time you know it’s not. You take a look at the stadium, make sure that you say goodbye. And sign as many autographs as you can do.”
You know what’s making the Farewell Tour particularly special? The fact Rivera is basically the Rolling Stones, well past his prime and still putting on an incredible show. The Yankees just wrapped up a terrific trip through Colorado, Kansas City and Cleveland, and Rivera had four saves in five days. He hasn’t blown one yet. The Yankees are probably using him a little more often than they’d like — adding some bats might ease that burden by eliminating a few two-run and three-run games — but so far, Rivera seems up to the challenge; his own sort of rock star.
“I only have to say, ‘Thank you,’” Rivera said. “I didn’t announce my retirement for this, but knowing that the teams are doing it, I appreciate it. I’m grateful for what they’re doing.”
A few random thoughts because, I don’t know, why not?
• Optioning Brennan Boesch and activating Brett Marshall might have been only the beginning of a transaction-heavy week for the Yankees. Curtis Granderson could come off the disabled list today, David Adams is eligible for promotion tomorrow, and it certainly seems like Joba Chamberlain could be ready to go by Thursday.
• Knowing all the guys one their way, who comes off the roster if Granderson is ready tonight? Is it worth sending Vidal Nuno back to Triple-A to stay stretched out? He’s clearly the team’s sixth starter at this point, with Warren having proven awfully valuable as a three-inning long reliever, similar to what David Phelps was for extended stretches last season. The Yankees also need to keep Brett Marshall as a fresh arm for a few days, because their long men are used up. But does it make sense to dump a position player for Granderson — Ben Francisco, for example — to go with a short bench for a night, then make the pitcher move if/when Adams comes up? If the Yankees use Marshall tonight, for example, it might turn out to be a better idea to send him down and keep Nuno.
• Three ways to go when Chamberlain comes back: 1. Option Nuno/Marshall and carry Warren as the only true long man. 2. Option Preston Claiborne and put faith in Shawn Kelley’s recent performance and ability to pitch two-plus innings. 3. Option Kelley and trust that Claiborne’s early performance is a sign of things to come. I think there’s real logic in any of those options, but I’d probably go with No. 2, only because Chamberlain basically fills the Claiborne role.
• You know who’s been playing really well lately? Jayson Nix. That guy seems to get on base every time these days.
• It seems clear that the Yankees prefer to keep Brett Gardner in center field, and my guess is that Granderson will only play there on days Gardner is on the bench. So which corner should Granderson play? Left field is huge at Yankee Stadium, so Granderson’s range makes sense there. But he’s also new to the corners. Does that make it more logical to put him in right field, where things are a little easier, leaving left field in the hands of Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki, who are pretty good outfielders themselves? I think I’d put Granderson in left, but it might be worth a discussion.
• Look at some of the lineups the Yankees used during this last road trip. Their roster is ill-equipped to play without a designated hitter, and their already tested depth is not ideal for eight games in seven days, yet the Yankees won six of eight against three teams that had been playing awfully well. Don’t look now, but Joe Girardi is looking awfully good right now. Don’t forget, this is a contract year for him.
Associated Press photos