David Robertson would seem likely to get the first opportunity to replace Mariano Rivera as closer for the New York Yankees (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
How will the New York Yankees replace Mariano Rivera? The legendary closer is, of course, lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered shagging fly balls Thursday night in Kansas City. The reality is that there is no replacing the man generally considered the greatest closer of all time. Yet, the Yankees have 137 games to play in the 2012 season and somebody has to close games.
So, what will the Yankees do?
David Robertson is likely to get the first opportunity to close games in Rivera's absence. Robertson, 27, made the American League All-Star Team in 2011 setting up for Rivera, pitching to a 1.08 ERA. This season he has yet to be scored upon in 11 appearances. Robertson, though, has a grand total of three career saves -- 605 fewer than Rivera.
"I don't know if I'm prepared to (replace Rivera) or not. I'm going to go out there and give it everything I've got, and hope for the best, Robertson said Thursday night. "I'm not Mariano Rivera, I'm not going to be able to go out there and get outs real quickly. I'm a different style of pitcher. I've never done it, so all I can do is say I'm going to try real hard."
[UPDATE: As expected, looks like Robertson will be given the first chance to close. See the following tweet.]
Cashman said Rivera will be w team tonight, then probably headed back to NY tomrrw. Said @DRob30 has "earned" right to be given opp to close— Erik Boland (@eboland11) May 4, 2012
Plan B would likely be Rafael Soriano, who will probably move from the seventh inning to the eighth-inning role now. Soriano led the American League with 45 saves in 2010, then signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Yankees. Whether he closes or not, Soriano is now much more important to the Yankees.
Is Phil Hughes an option, either closing games or pitching late-inning relief? Hughes has been awful as a starter this season with a 7.48 ERA and might be destined to be bumped to the bullpen anyway if he doesn't begin to pitch better. Hughes excelled in a setup role in 2009, pitching to a 1.40 ERA and holding hitters to a .172 batting average in 44 games. Could he reprise that role, possibly setting up for Robertson or Soriano?
Could Joba Chamberlain still play a role later this season? If he recovers sufficiently from his broken ankle and Tommy John surgery Chamberlain could wind up more important to the Yankees this season than anyone ever figured less than 24 hours ago.
The Yankees will figure out a way to handle the late innings. No matter what they do, however, there is no replacing everything Rivera brings.