Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mariano Rivera Ties Saves Record

In honor of the great Mariano Rivera tying Trevor Hoffman for the All-Time saves record I wanted to do a post about the beginning of Rivera's career.  We all know that he has had a great career as a closer for the Yankees over the last 16 years but some might not know how it started.

Rivera was signed out of Panama in 1990 at age 20 on February 17th.  This seems old for today's standards where central American kids are usually signed before age 18 but twenty years ago I would assume this was not as much the case.

He was then sent to the Golf Coast League which was the only minor league level he was used primarily as a reliever.  There he posted a ridiculous 0.17 ERA in 52 innings, giving up only 1 earned run.  Over the next 4 + years he made his way through the Yankees minor league system.  The teams during that time were almost all in different locations. He spent the 1991 season in Greensboro which is the equivalent of Charleston or Low A.  There he started half of the game he pitched in.

Then in 1992 he again got moved up and this time to Fort Lauderdale which is the equivalent of Tampa or High A.  There is where he began starting in all the games he pitched. He started 10 games that season.

Even though he posted a 2.08 ERA with Fort Lauderdale the 1993 season was spent between GCL and Greensboro.  He started 12 games that season.

1994 was the season that he really jumped through the minors he went from Tampa (They had switched from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa by the time Mo got back to High A) to Albany-Colonie (Today's Trenton or AA) to Columbus (Today's Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or AAA).  He started 22 games that season and posted a overall 3.09 ERA.  He had struggled in his time at AAA with a 5.81 ERA which was the first time he had any issues in the minors.  Therefore he started the 1995 season in Columbus.  After carrying a 2.10 ERA in 7 starts he was called up to the major league team and made his major league debut on May 23rd, 1995.

That first season in the bigs would be the only time his ERA would ever be over 3.00 for a season.  This season would be the last time he had any pitching struggles.  He started 10 games (pitched in 19 overall) and went 5-3 with a 5.51 ERA.  That would be the last season he made a start.

Rivera did not become the full time closer until 1997 because the Yankees had top closer John Wetteland ahead of him.  In 1996, as the Wetteland's setup man, he had his only season with over 100 innings pitched.  That season he recorded a 2.09 ERA and a phenom was born.  In 1997 he recorded 43 saves and as they say the rest is history

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