Mariano Rivera notched his fifth save of the season Monday night by allowing one hit over a scoreless inning as part of a 2-1 win over the Orioles. Little did we know it at the time, but there's a chance that it will go down as the final appearance of his career.
It's a sad possibility to contemplate, but a necessary one, as Rivera was carted off the field Thursday in Kansas City after injuring his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice. The 42-year-old was attempting to track down a fly ball off the bat of newest Yankee Jayson Nix in distant center field when he lost his footing near the warning track and fell awkwardly to the ground. He immediately grabbed at his knee and was helped onto a cart by coaches and teammates.
Rivera was initially diagnosed with a "twisted right knee" at Kauffman Stadium, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi confirmed after the game that an MRI exam showed a torn ACL. He is expected to travel back to New York to be examined by team doctors, but if the initial diagnosis is confirmed, he will miss the rest of the season.
Rivera has already hinted at the possibility of retirement and he was expected to make an official announcement on his future around the All-Star break, so the unfortunate injury means that he might not leave the game on his own terms. In speaking with reporters after the game, the all-time saves leader said that he's not sure whether he'll attempt to come back from the injury (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com).
"At this point, I don't know, Rivera said, repeating softly, "At this point, I don't know. I have to face this first."
The impact of losing Rivera can't be overstated, as the future first-ballot Hall of Famer owns a 2.21 ERA over the course of his 18-year career and has 650 saves between the regular season and playoffs. He's quite simply the best relief pitcher of all-time and odds are we'll never see another one quite like him. It will take some time to get used to seeing someone else pitch the ninth inning for the Yankees, even if it's just for the rest of this season, but the silver lining here is that Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are both capable of having success in the back end of the bullpen.
Soriano led the American League with 45 saves as a member of the Rays in 2010 while Robertson has an 0.93 ERA dating back to the start of last season, including a ridiculous 18/3 K/BB ratio over 11 scoreless innings this year. No official announcement has been made on Rivera's replacement, but I would put my money on Robertson. He has a chance to be an elite closer right away.
The Giants announced Thursday that Pablo Sandoval needs surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and will miss 4-6 weeks. Oddly enough, he needed surgery to repair the very same injury to his right hand almost exactly one year ago.
Sandoval, 25, is hitting .316/.375/.537 with five homers, 15 RBI and a .912 OPS through his first 104 plate appearances this season. Losing him is a killer blow to an offense which was already in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. Conor Gillaspie got the call from Triple-A Fresno on Thursday and is expected to see most of the playing time at third base during Sandoval's absence. The 24-year-old is known as a contact hitter with gap power and solid patience, but he's strictly an NL-only option.
We've also seen injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Youkilis, Evan Longoria and Mat Gamel recently, so third base is suddenly very thin in mixed leagues. Chris Davis (Yahoo: 60 percent owned, ESPN: 78.9 percent) and Pedro Alvarez (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 27 percent) are two of the big waiver wire sensations of the past week, so some of the best widely available alternatives include the likes of Chipper Jones (Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 36.6 percent), Jed Lowrie (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 26.5 percent), Ty Wigginton (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 18.9 percent), Will Middlebrooks (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 3.3 percent), Kyle Seager (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 2.5 percent) and Alex Liddi (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 1.9 percent). Good luck out there.
Marmol Implodes Again
Cubs manager Dale Sveum may have finally run out of patience with closer Carlos Marmol.
The erratic right-hander imploded again Thursday after inheriting a 3-0 lead in a save situation against the Reds. He walked the first two batters he faced before giving up a ground ball to Brandon Phillips which bounced off Ian Stewart's glove for an error and allowed the first run to score. He then gave up a single to Jay Bruce to load the bases and walked Ryan Ludwick to force in a run. Rafael Dolis took the ball from there and actually induced a double-play ground ball, but the tying run scored on the play, spoiling an excellent effort by Ryan Dempster. The Reds went on to win 4-3 in 10 innings on a walkoff sacrifice fly by Scott Rolen.
After sitting through the meltdown, Sveum told reporters that he is considering a change at closer. And it's hard to blame him, as Marmol has followed up a miserable 2011 campaign by posting a 6.23 ERA, two blown saves and an 8/12 K/BB ratio over 8 2/3 innings this season. However, the problem is that the Cubs have no obvious alternative to take over.
Sveum only mentioned Dolis and James Russell as options on Thursday, which effectively ruled out set-up man Kerry Wood. Dolis is an interesting arm, but he has walked eight batters in 15 1/3 innings this year and averaged 4.5 BB/9 over parts of five seasons in the minors. As for Russell, he's likely only in the conversation because he hasn't allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings this season. While the 26-year-old southpaw throws strikes, a nice change of pace from Marmol and even Dolis, he also averages 88 mph on his fastball. Feel free to grab either pitcher if you're desperate for saves, but this could be a pretty messy situation in the short-term.
NL Quick Hits: Bryce Harper batted third Thursday night and knocked in the go-ahead run as part of a win over the Diamondbacks … With Heath Bell and Steve Cishek unavailable, Edward Mujica notched his first save of the season Thursday against the Giants. Bell has been terrible so far this season, but Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said Thursday that his closer job is not in jeopardy … Lance Berkman (calf) confirmed that he will not return from the disabled list when he's eligible Friday … Jason Heyward (oblique) went 0-for-3 in his return to the lineup Thursday … Adam LaRoche is expected to miss at least the next couple of days due to oblique soreness … Joe Blanton allowed just three hits in a complete game shutout against the Braves on Thursday afternoon … Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring) had his rehab outing scrapped Thursday following a two-hour rain delay … The Brewers called up Brooks Conrad from Triple-A Nashville and he should be thrown into the mix at first base now that Mat Gamel (knee) is done for the season …
AL Quick Hits: Derek Jeter notched four hits Thursday against the Royals and is now hitting .404 through 109 at-bats … Brett Gardner (elbow) is scheduled to take live batting practice on Saturday … B.J. Upton sat out Thursday's game with quad tightness, but he is expected to play Friday … Brandon Morrow threw a three-hit shutout in Thursday's win over the Angels … Mike Moustakas went 2-for-4 with a homer in a win over the Yankees on Thursday … Jason Kipnis homered and drove in four runs Thursday against the White Sox and is hitting .444 (12-for-27) over his last seven games ... Sergio Santos (shoulder) is expected to start playing catch this weekend … Danny Duffy made his return from elbow stiffness Thursday and allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings as part of a win over the Yankees … Adam Dunn went deep Thursday for the third time in the past four games and now has seven homers and 19 RBI through 89 at-bats … John Danks allowed seven runs (six earned) over seven innings Thursday against the Indians and now has a 6.51 ERA through his first six starts this season … Johnny Damon (cramping) went 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI in his return to the lineup Thursday … Coco Crisp is expected to be placed on the disabled list Friday due to lingering inner-ear and sinus infections ... Eric Chavez was placed on the 7-day disabled list Thursday with a concussion … In an effort to bolster their struggling bullpen, the Angels acquired reliever Ernesto Frieri from the Padres for a pair of prospects … Yuniesky Betancourt has landed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle …