|Team||New York Yankees|
|Years of Experience||10 years|
|Height||6 ft 2 in|
|Place of Birth||Panama City, Panama|
|Selection||Amateur Free Agent, 1990|
|Drafted by||New York Yankees|
|Major League Debut||May 23, 1995|
Born in Panama City, Panama, his rookie season in the Major Leagues was 1995, in which he made a limited number of appearances. In 1996, he served primarily as a set-up man for the closer John Wetteland. During that season, if the Yankees were leading after six innings, they were nearly assured of victory due to the stellar pitching of both relievers, finishing 70-3 when leading after the 6th inning. Despite playing in a position that rarely gets respect, Rivera still managed to come in third for the Cy Young Award voting, behind twenty-game winners Pat Hentgen and teammate Andy Pettitte, respectively.
When Wetteland left the team following that season (in which they won the World Series), Rivera became the Yankees' closer and has remained so through 2005. He has been one of the most consistent, dependable relief pitchers in the Major Leagues during his tenure as a closer for the Yankees. Rivera has been especially overpowering in the postseason, in which his lifetime ERA of 0.81 is the Major League record. Rivera's postseason dominance played a critical role in the Yankees' four championships in five years in the late 1990s.
From 1998 to 2001, Rivera converted 23 postseason saves successfully and pitched 34 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason, both Major League records. Rivera's most infamous moment in the postseason occurred in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when he blew the save in the bottom of the 9th inning despite striking out the side the previous inning. Since then, Rivera has been less consistent in the postseason, but Rivera's performance after blowing that save is second only to his performance before that game. In 2003, he would have arguably his best postseason performance ever, when he pitched 3 shutout innings in a Game 7 victory over the powerful Boston Red Sox.
In 2005, Rivera had perhaps the greatest year of his career. He converted 31 consecutive save opportunities, a career record that spanned 4 months. He added a save in the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit. He had 43 saves overall in 47 opportunities, a 1.38 ERA, an opponents batting average of .177, and a strikeout-to-walk of 4.44. He finished second in the race for the Cy Young Award.
Rivera has won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award four times, in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005. He donated his 2001 trophy to the New York City Fire Department, and the trophy is on permanent display at the FDNY's Brooklyn headquarters. He won the World Series MVP Award in 1999, when which the Yankees swept the Atlanta Braves in four games and Rivera earned two saves.
Rivera's signature pitch is his cut fastball, or cutter, which he mixes with both a four-seam and two-seam fastball. Rivera's cutter has been called one of the best pitches in baseball history, a 95 mile-per-hour fastball that breaks at the last second. Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves once compared Rivera's cutter to a chainsaw due to its tendency of shattering the bats of opposing left-handed hitters.
His uniform number is 42, which has been retired by all Major League Baseball teams since 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson. However, Rivera is permitted to use the number due to a grandfather clause, and he is the last active Major League player to wear the number. Given the many uniform numbers retired by the Yankees, it is very likely his number would've been retired by them after his career ended anyway.
Some of Rivera's accomplishments include:
- Lowest postseason ERA of all-time (0.81) (as of 2005)
- Most postseason saves of all-time (34) (as of 2005)
- Lowest career ERA of closers in top 50 of career saves (2.35) (as of 2005)
- Second-best save conversion percentage of closers with at least 150 saves (87.9%) (as of 2005)
- Only 2nd closer in history to record 40 saves in 6 different seasons
- 5th all-time in career saves (379), 2nd all-time among active pitchers (through the 2005 season)
- Only 3rd pitcher in history to notch 300 saves with one team
- One of only 8 pitchers to record at least 50 saves in a season
- One of only 6 pitchers to record at least 53 saves in a season
- Holds record for 34 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched in postseason
- Recorded 12 2-inning saves in the postseason, twice as many as the next player on the list (as of 2005)
- Most saves in World Series play (9)
- Only reliever to win ALCS (2003) and World Series MVP (1999) awards
- 7-time All-Star
- 4-time World Series champion
- Yankees' all-time leader in saves and appearances
- Named the relief pitcher on Major League Baseball's Latino Legends Team
- Finished 3rd in voting for American League Cy Young Award in 1996, 1999, 2004; finished 2nd in 2005
- Only 2nd pitcher since 1997 to finish in top 10 in voting for American League Most Valuable Player Award (2004, 9th place)
- Most two-inning saves in the postseason (11)
- Career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com
- MLB and Minor League Career statistics at The Baseball Cube
- ESPN.com: Mariano Rivera
- Mariano Rivera - A Man with a Message