Mariano Rivera couldn’t manage a five-out save at Fenway last night, and the New York Daily News’ John Harper scolds, “Joe Torre said it more than once in spring training. He wasn’t going to use Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning this season. Maybe he should have stuck to that vow a little longer.”
It’s apparent that Torre doesn’t have a set-up man he trusts fully, and so when he was desperate to hang onto a lead against the Red Sox last night, he turned to Rivera because it’s always been a sure escape route for him.On this night, however, Rivera couldn’t bail out Luis Vizcaino. Coming in with runners at first and third and one out, he gave up three consecutive hits and, that quickly, another remarkable night for Alex Rodriguez turned to disaster for the Yankees and concern about their legendary closer.
A 7-6 loss, the result of a five-run rally by the Red Sox in the eighth inning, left the Yankees shaking their heads in disbelief, at least partly because it was Rivera’s second straight blown save, in his first outing since giving up a three-run home run last Sunday to Oakland’s Marco Scutaro.
Rivera has had these blips in years past, but he is 37 now, so questions are going to arise about age and decline.
Torre admitted to being shocked, as he had last Sunday, because he is so accustomed to Rivera’s greatness, but he shrugged off any notion of trouble brewing.
“He should be my biggest concern this year,” Torre said facetiously. “This is just one of those unpredictable things that you know won’t come true.”
So the eighth-inning move didn’t work out so well. And afterward Torre was reminded of his spring training vow.
“Oh, yeah, I lied,” he said. “What can I tell you? I didn’t plan on lying, but I lied. It was just the atmosphere of that eighth inning, and the way it was developing. I felt I had to go for it there and let the ninth inning take care of itself.
“We had warned Mo we might use him if things started getting out of hand. So he had time to warm up.”
Torre said he was willing to use Rivera in the eighth partly because he hadn’t pitched since Sunday, “so he was well-rested.”
In truth, you can’t blame Torre because it is a formula that has always worked for him, but maybe he is going to have to force himself to give relievers such as Vizcaino and Scott Proctor the opportunities to succeed or fail in such crucial spots because he’s not always going to be able to go to Mo like this.
If anything, you wonder if Torre went a little too quickly to his bullpen for Andy Pettitte in the seventh inning. Pettitte was at 100 pitches and had just struck out Wily Mo Pena with runners at first and second with a 5-2 lead, when Torre brought in Proctor to pitch to Julio Lugo.