With seven of their 12 wins this season coming by four runs or more, the Yankees haven’t needed to call on closer Mariano Rivera too often to this point. Rivera has only appeared in eight of the first 21 games, for a total of 7.1 innings on the mound. Five of those were save situations, four of which he closed out with a win and earned a save. Even though the work hasn’t been so steady, Mo’s groove has been as he’s only given up five hits and two earned runs, along with recording eight strikeouts to just two walks.
There are a few good reasons for why the Yanks closer has seen limited action so far. The first being that for the most part, the batting order has been pretty productive to start 2012. They have a team batting average of .276, good for fourth best in the MLB. Their second-best .354 on-base percentage has been a credit to patience at the plate, 86 walks, along with plenty of solid contact, 203 hits, also good for second place in the league. The bombers have taken clear advantage of all of these base runners and scoring opportunities as well. With 36 home runs and 114 RBIs, the Yanks sit on top of the league in these categories and they’re also tied for first in runs scored with the Texas Rangers at 118. Posting numbers like this at the plate, it’s no wonder Mo has spent a minimal amount of time pitching.
Another reason, is due to the outstanding performances by the rest of the relief pitchers in the bullpen, who have been relied on heavily thus far being that the starting rotation has had their struggles. As a collective unit, minus Rivera, the bullpen has put in 67 total innings of work already and have given up just 17 runs, compared to the outrageous 77 runs given up by the starters. With such reliable relievers, it’s led Manager Joe Girardi, to make a big move recently. He bumped Freddy Garcia out of the rotation and replaced him with reliever, David Phelps, who has seen most of the action out of the pen for the Yanks with 17.2 innings. As the starters still look to get settled, it’s surely a comforting feeling for Girardi to know he has a dependable bullpen to turn to in times of trouble, or simply to hold onto a large lead for a victory.
There’s not a Yankee fan who doesn’t love to hear the song “Enter Sandman” echo through the stadium, as the straight faced Rivera makes his way to the mound in the most critical of situations to finish out the game for a win. But not seeing him hit the field so often, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that when the getting is good and the squad is rolling, there’s been little resistance by opponents, so the save scenarios are few and far between. This just gives the future hall-of-famer in Rivera, plenty of time to rest his aging arm for later on in this long season, when a the outcome of a matchup may mean another step toward the World Series, or going home until next year.