BOSTON -- Mariano Rivera may have single-handedly caused more anxiety for the Red Sox in recent seasons than any other player.
But seeing him crumpled in a heap on the warning track in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City yesterday, clutching is right knee, and hearing the news of his torn ACL and meniscus, leaving the career of the future Hall of Famer in jeopardy, brought only sadness to the Sox clubhouse.
It was sad, man, said David Ortiz. Last night when I saw it on TV it was pretty emotional. And going out the way he did it was unbelievable I dont want to see anybody getting injured, especially a guy like Mariano.
I always say that hes the best pitcher in the game that I ever seen. You know what hes coming with and you still wont hit it. Period. Its simple. Only one pitch.
I can only be redundant in anything I say because hes one of the greatest guys Ive ever met, said manager Bobby Valentine. Obviously one of the greatest athletes who was doing an athletic event when he got hurt. Goes without saying. The kind of pitcher he was I dont think Ill ever see it in my lifetime again. Hes special. Hopefully hell come back even though hes with the bad guys.
Obviously as a baseball player, I grew up a fan and Ive always been a big fan of Mariano, said Cody Ross. Im not a big fan of facing him, obviously, or when he plays against us. But, Im a true fan and you hate to see players like that get hurt the way he did. Its a sad day for baseball and for the Yankees, obviously, a tough loss. I just hope that he doesnt have to go out like that.
It stinks said Marlon Byrd. When I was with the Phillies, I got drafted in 99, one thing I always respected about the Yankees was the whole way Mariano, for some reason, he always knew all the young guys, all the minor leaguers, everything. Hed see me and say hello. Theres just a respect. I dont think anyone has anything negative to say about him. So I wanted him to keep building on that save record, not against the Red Sox but keep building on it because hes the greatest closer of all time. I wish him well. Hopefully he recovers fast. Hes a hard worker. Everybody knows hes going to recover fast and hopefully comes back.
For Ross, Rivera defined playoff baseball.
When you see him and you see him come set from the back view, every time I see it I picture playoff October baseball when the games on the line and him coming in and getting the job done, and just the incredible run hes had in the playoffs, obviously, throughout the years, too. Hes just been a great professional and a great ambassador for the game.
While Rivera is known for his devastating cutter, it is his cunning instinct that Byrd remembers.
The one thing I remember is Mariano always throwing me cutters, cutters, cutters when I went to Texas, Byrd said. We got a couple hits off him and I came up and the first pitch he threw me was a sinker and broke my bat. And I was so dumbfounded, I didnt know what to think. You know, since when did he throw a sinker? Its just me. It wasnt like I was one of their big thumpers. I wasnt Michael Young or Josh Hamilton. But thats just the type of pitcher he is. Hes very smart.
How might Riveras loss affect the American League East?
No way of telling, Valentine said. They have a couple of guys who have been very good at the end of a game and it is during the season so they have been battle-tested. I think it'll depend on their starting pitching. If they're going to the sixth and seventh a lot I think they're going to miss him. If theyre starting pitching stretches out into the eighth inning I think they might be OK. Its still not going to be as comfortable a feeling for sure.
The feeling that permeated the Sox clubhouse today was that for someone who built his reputation on and off the field as one of the most respected players to ever pick up a baseball to have to end his career in this fashion would be entirely unfair.
It is, said Ross. I dont know if his career is over, if hes going to shut it down or not after this. But you hate to see it if it is. But what hes done, you cant take away from him. Hes been an incredible player and Hall of Famer. I guess Im blessed to be able to say I played against him and tell my grandkids about him down the road.
Hopefully it doesnt, Byrd said. I dont even want to think about that. Thats negative. I try to stay positive. Im sure the Yankees are thinking the same thing. Im sure Mariano's thinking the same thing. So I dont think he wants to go out like this. I have the feeling hell be back and come back as strong as ever.
Well me and Mariano, we are really good friends, Ortiz said. Hes the kind of person that he believes in, hes a major believer in God have something always in plan for us. And Im pretty sure if thats the way God wants him to finish his career, he will understand that, he will agree with it. You know what Im saying? But like I say, hes just the kind of player that you want to see at the end of his career competing like he got everybody used to. And finish it like that, if thats the way its supposed to be, thats the way its supposed to be, you know what Im saying. But he will understand.