Cementing the Bridge to Mariano Rivera

The New York Yankees are blessed. They have the best closer of all time in Mariano Rivera. How many times did we see him close games in clutch situations. How many times did we hear Mariano's entrance song "Enter Sandman" which means exit time to the opponents. How many times did we see him use his famous "cutter" that until now the league hasn't found a way to solve it.

The Yankees won't be the 2009 World Series Champs without Rivera as their closer. Rivera is such an important and integral part of the team that he even played more than one inning just to make sure to clinch a win. In fact it became a trend in the Championship series and the World Series where starting pitchers like CC Sabathia would pitch 7-8 good innings (eliminating the set-up guy) then passing the ball the the Yankees great closer. It worked effectively as the opponents can't rally back and has simply no answer to the great pitching arsenal of Mariano Rivera.

And to add insurance to the Yankees winning ways, Rivera said that he is planning to play 5 more years. Yankee fans are hoping that Rivera is not kidding. At the age of 39, Rivera showed no signs of slowing down. And barring injuries, 5 years is a realistic plan for Rivera.

Problem is the remaining staff in the Yankees bullpen. During the 2009 season, the Yankees pen are probably the best in the league with Phil Hughes as Rivera's set-up man and newcomers like David Robertson, Ace Aceves, and Phil Coke providing stability and consistency. But in the post-season, the Yanks bullpen was evaporated forcing Mariano Rivera to play extra innings to ensure a win.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that Yankees bullpen is still strong (even if they faded in the post-season). That holds true, but there is uncertainty in pitching. A pitcher can be a MVP caliber this year and drop out of the rotation next year. Just look at Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Last year he was MVP of the world series with 1.80 ERA. This year Hamels played poorly allowing 5 earned runs in Game 3 of the World Series and was credited with a loss. Looking for consistency in pitching is very hard to find nowadays.

That is why the Yankees must think to bolster their bullpen even if that is not their biggest need this off-season. Rumors is that the Yankees are considering signing Free Agents like Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano (both Type A Free Agents). Or the Yankees might consider placing young pitchers like Joba and Phil Hughes in the pen if they were able to bring back Andy Pettitte and/or sign a Free Agent pitcher like John Lackey.

Either way, Mariano Rivera needs help. He can't do it all alone. He can't carry the bullpen on his own even if he has Superman type of skills. Getting help from their farm system or through free agency will help the Yankees closer and if that is done 5 years for Mariano Rivera is not an impossible feat.

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