You know that video that’s been playing on a loop for every SportsCenter-type show out there, the one of Mariano Rivera letting go of Andy Pettitte, hugging Derek Jeter, and finally walking off the mound? If you pay attention to the background, you’ll see J.R. Murphy looking a little slack-jawed as Rivera walks away.
“I got a lot of text messages, a lot of phone calls,” Murphy said. “A lot of pictures. I guess I made a funny face. … (The messages have been) all basically the same thing, what an honor, how special it must be to catch Mo for maybe his last pitch at Yankee Stadium. So much to be thankful for, and very blessed. And it’s all true.”
Murphy said it crossed his mind very quickly when he saw his name in the lineup yesterday that he might be the one to catch Rivera’s final game in the Bronx. He knew Rivera was expected to pitch that night, and Murphy knew being behind the plate for the first inning meant he had a chance to be out there for the ninth.
Now, Murphy’s in the lineup again. Joe Girardi said he’ll likely start Murphy two of these final three games, skipping one of them strictly so he doesn’t have to catch a day game after a night game.
“You play some young kids, and you want to see some of the things that they can do,” Girardi said. “For some of these guys who have been up here for the whole month of September, they haven’t had much of an opportunity because we’ve been in it. We’ll give them a chance to play. … I think you can always learn a little something (from seeing them). It’s (mostly) kind of a reward for them. They’re here every day working and trying to get better. They’re at the game early every day taking extra ground balls, blocking balls. I just think it’s important that they play. I think it’s important that they get that experience.”
Hard to top the experience of last night, though.
“I’m sure Andy and Jeet would say the same thing,” Murphy said. “That moment was all about Mo. I’m sure they were happy to be a part of it. … It’ll be a trivia question. Who was the batterymate?”
• Speaking of Rivera, Girardi left no doubt that he’s basically running the show this weekend. “I’m going to talk to him, see what he wants to do,” Girardi said. “And when he tells me what he wants to do, I’ll let him do it.”
• Play center field? “I know he’s talked about playing some center field, but I know he has some concern about his leg running out there,” Girardi said. “That’s really up to him. If he wants to do it, he can do it. I’m OK with it.” When would Rivera play the outfield? “Whatever day he asks to do it,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said it has crossed his mind that it might be best to have that moment at Yankee Stadium stand as the final moment of Rivera’s career, and if that’s the way Rivera wants it, that’s the way it will be. What if there’s a save situation here in Houston? “I’ve got to talk to Mo, see what he wants to do,” Girardi said.
• Kind of a similar situation for Andy Pettitte’s final career start tomorrow. Girardi said he doesn’t necessarily have any sneaky plan up his sleeve. “Whatever he wants,” Girardi said.
• Alex Rodriguez is also in a check-and-see situation for the weekend. He’s here, it’s just unclear whether he’ll play. “I’ll see how he’s feeling,” Girardi said.
• One minor addition to the story of last night, Girardi said he actually asked Rivera if he wanted to be pulled with two outs. If Rivera had wanted to finish the inning, he would have.
• Might have noticed Eduardo Nunez not running 100 percent lately. Girardi said Nunez’s knee has been bothering him, the same one he hurt in Toronto earlier this month. “He’s not 100 percent,” Girardi said. “He says he’s fine to play. I check with him all the time.”
• Brett Gardner was out stretching with the team today, which was new. Still seems unlikely he’ll actually get in another game this season. Girardi dismissed my idea that Gardner should close while Rivera plays center. I really thought he might go for that one.
• Girardi said the early expectation is that David Huff will start Sunday’s finale. As for tonight, Adam Warren is probably limited to roughly 50 pitches. “If we can get three innings out of him we’d probably be pretty thrilled about that,” Girardi said.
• Don’t know the specifics, but apparently the Astros have Roger Clemens here for some sort of Rivera pregame presentation. I believe that’s happening tonight, but I’m not sure. Could be Saturday or Sunday.
Associated Press photos