If the New York Yankees have a ninth-inning lead today against the Minnesota Twins, there is a good chance Mariano Rivera will be called upon to protect it. Should Rivera succeed, earning the 602nd save of his Hall of Fame career, he would become baseball's all-time saves leader.
After tying Trevor Hoffman's record with his 601st save, Rivera joined Mike Francesa on WFAN Radio to discuss his incredible career. Sports Radio Interviews has the full transcript, and we have some excerpts of Rivera's conversation with Francesa below.
How are you able to control the cutter and be able to put the ball where you want it? What is the reason for your ability to hit corners?
"Since I was a little boy I was always good with accuracy. I was accurate. I remember having a sling shot and I went down to the beach and took my dog and just went hunting. Whatever moved we started shooting at that thing. [Mike Francesa:Where you a good shot?] Oh yeah definitely. I was always accurate. I took that even though I wasn’t a pitcher. I always took that and being a professional player I worked on that over-and-over. I got it to the point where I was 95 percent accurate. I take that any time. With the corner? I learned to control the corner. I would say after three or four years as I was throwing it I had better control of that. I wouldn’t say I have 100 percent control of it. Again 95 percent of that is very good. That’s why I have been efficient and I would say so. You learn setting the corners to your advantage."
Does it sink in when people call you the best closer of all-time?
"I don’t see myself as that. I have seen so many great pitchers that I don’t consider myself that. I consider myself a blessed man that has been with one team so many years. I had the opportunity to pitch in the best team sport. Again it’s a blessing. Whatever people say about me I respect that. Good or bad I do respect that."
Is there one moment in your Yankees career that stands out in particular?
"There are many, but I think the one that stands out the most was the playoffs of 2003 against the Red Sox when I pitched three innings. [Mike Francesa: In game seven of 2003 ALCS? You were the ALCS MVP.] Exactly. Yes. That game was something special. If there was something that stood out it would be that one."
For the Yankee, when it comes to the 2011 playoffs the games will still be all about getting the ball to Rivera. As they have been since 1997 when he became the closer. Even this many years later there is no one in baseball manager Joe Girardi would rather hand the ball to, or that Yankees fans would rather see on the mound.