By Sweeny Murti
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Yankees fans might be pleased to know that David Robertson feels exactly the same way about Mariano Rivera’s presumed impending retirement as you do—hoping it’s not really true.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Robertson said Tuesday. “He may have hinted, but you never know. He could Brett Favre us…that’s all I’m saying.”
Bearing a label as the Yankees relief magician—his teammates call him Houdini for his bases-filled escapes—Robertson’s rise to All-Star status in 2011 brings him to the doorstep of being the next Yankee closer. And it’s not a position anyone should envy. Would you want to be the guy who had to replace the Babe Ruth of closers?
Robertson came to the Yankees as a wide-eyed kid from Alabama, who still says the only thing he did differently this past off-season was catch fewer fish (maybe because of the warmer water temps, he guesses). But he’s savvy enough to know that even if given the chance to take over the closer role when Mariano officially retires, it’s not a torch that will easily be passed.
Robertson has made his name by racking up strikeouts at a staggering rate, 270 in 202 major league innings (12 K’s/9 inn). But several times after Robertson was done sweating out his 7th or 8th inning mess, he has watched Rivera barely raise his pulse to get the final three outs. If there’s anything Robertson has learned and would like to emulate from Rivera, it’s that cold-hearted efficiency.
Now, it’s not a guarantee that Robertson is the next Yankee closer. Rafael Soriano is still here making a ton of money, and in 2013 will be in the final year of his deal looking to earn another big payday. That is pretty good motivation, and Soriano does have a 45-save season on his resume from 2010.
And there’s also Joba Chamberlain. That storyline will become more intriguing when he comes back fully from Tommy John surgery, which the Yankees expect to be in June.
But for now, no need to stock up on antacids…Mariano Rivera is still the Yankees closer in 2012.