NEW YORK (WFAN) — If you try too hard, you’re doomed. So just be yourself.
That’s the message Mariano Rivera says he will convey to David Robertson, assuming he ever gets the new Yankees closer on the phone.
Speaking to WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Wednesday, the greatest relief pitcher ever offered a ton of advice to Robertson, touched on Derek Jeter’s upcoming retirement tour and hinted that he will be part of the Yankees’ exhibition games in his native Panama, perhaps in more ways than one.
It’s assumed Robertson will be the closer when the Yankees break camp and head north. The 28-year-old right-hander will be stepping into a situation once occupied by a man who is not only the all-time saves leader, but has a postseason resume that will likely never be matched.
Rivera said those are the last things Robertson should be focusing on.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet. I have tried to get in touch with him, but that boy doesn’t answer his phone. The moment I get a hold of him I will pull his ear off and make sure that he listens. He’s a good boy, though,” Rivera said.
“The first thing that he has to think, he has to do, is not think that he’s replacing me, because there won’t be another Mariano Rivera. There will be many other players, but no Mariano Rivera. He just has to be himself. He has to do what he’s capable to do, pitch capable as he is to do it. Forget everything else. Forget about what I did. That’s not his game. His game is what he controls, not what I control. That’s what he needs to understand,” Rivera added.
Rivera said he knows exactly how Robertson might feel. Rivera set up John Wetteland during the Yankees’ run to the 1996 World Series championship, and then inherited the closer’s job the next season. Robertson benefited from observing Rivera for six years, in addition to taking the ball as either his seventh- or eighth-inning bridge.
“That year I wasn’t even thinking about being the closer,” Rivera said of the 1997 season. “The Yankees let Wetteland go and didn’t sign him back and I became the guy. I wasn’t thinking to replace him; I was just trying to do my job. But in the beginning I was trying so hard I was doing the opposite and everything was going wrong. Thank God for (pitching coach) Mel (Stottlemyre) and Joe Torre. They pulled me aside and told me I would be the guy regardless. I needed that and I took off.”
Rivera said it will be difficult for many fans, but patience will be required with Robertson.
“So he’s gonna face some tough times. We have to trust … we have to allow the guy … he’s going to fail sometimes,” Rivera said. “That’s my boy. I love him. I wish him the best. And I will be there for him.”
DEREK’S FAREWELL TOUR
Rivera said he enjoyed every second of the 2013 season, even though he did admit at the end of the season that he had lost his will to pitch. He told Joe & Evan he has not yet spoken to Derek Jeter about his impending retirement, but will do so at some point in person. The Yankees captain is expected to get an even grander sendoff from Major League Baseball than Rivera received.
However, No. 42 said there’s only one way No. 2 will enjoy his city-by-city sendoff.
“The only thing that I pray is that he will be healthy, he stays healthy all year so he can enjoy every minute, every bit of it, because it’s something that has no price,” Rivera said. “So that’s my prayer – that the Lord keep him from injuries and that he will be able to enjoy, because it’s something special. It’s something every player should go through.”
The Yankees will play the Florida Marlins on March 15-16 in Panama and Rivera said it can’t happen soon enough.
“Oh you can’t imagine. To me, this is a dream come true. I always wanted to have the team go to Panama and play some games there while I was playing. Now, it’s legit. It’s happening. I can’t wait,” Rivera said. “It’s something my people down in Panama will appreciate it and will never forget.”
Benigno kind of half-jokingly asked if Rivera would perhaps try to convince the Yankees to let him pitch in the series. Rivera initially said he won’t be playing, but later hinted that he’s at least considering the idea.
“I was thinking about it. I won’t say yet. I have to be ready. One thing that I always do, even in spring training, when I’m going to do something I want to give my best. And right now I haven’t even throw a ball since I finished,’ Rivera said. “But again, that’s how important these games are for me, because it’s not a spring training game, it’s something legit. I won’t do something unless I know I can be successful.”
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