Coming off of a 2012 that ended painfully in Kansas City while shagging fly balls during pre-game batting practice, the incomparable Mariano Rivera returns to man the ninth inning in 2013. However, while the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball returns to add on to an already historic career, it's safe to speculate 2013 could be the final chapter for Rivera.
With the possibility of retirement inevitable, it's safe to say speculate 2013 could also be the year certain late-inning relievers might be auditioning to be the heir apparent. While Joba Chamberlain could have a say, it's fair to assume that current set-up man David Robertson is the heavy favorite to fill the legendary shoes of Rivera, and for that, Robertson garners the number five spot of most interesting Yankees entering 2013.
With the off-season departure of closer Rafael Soriano, who filled in valianty once Rivera was lost for the season, Robertson not only will ascertain himself as the main set-up man in 2013, but he will also receive additional opportunities to close on nights where Rivera can't pitch.
Moreover, with Robertson not eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, he will be in line to become the closer in the event Rivera decides to retire after this season. However, similar to the aforementioned Nova, Robertson will have to show more of his 2011 form, a year where Robertson reached the All-Star Game and also received Cy Young and American League MVP consideration. Such accolades come with the territory of a 1.08 ERA, four wins, 34 holds, and exactly 100 strikeouts over 66 innings pitched.
Coming off a 2012 which culminated with a 2-7 record and an a higher earned run average, can Robertson go back to affirming an effective presence in late-inning work like he did in 2011? Also, can Robertson pitch consistently enough to the point of becoming the future closer of the Yankees?
It is important to note that despite the record and higher ERA, Robertson still successfully held 30 games i middle-relief appearances, and he struck out an impressive 81 batters over 60 innings. The decrease in innings was due in part to a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a strained ribcage muscle, an injury that even upon his return, lingered for most of the season.
While a shaky inning of work against the Detroit Tigers in the deciding game of the American League Championship Series was the last time baseball fans saw Robertson on the mound, the ability to enter 2013 injury-free could prove to be the jolt the 27-year-old right-hander needs. Moreover, with Soriano now closing for the Washington Nationals, Robertson, will get the first opportunity to close on nights Rivera doesn't pitch.
Always easy to find an interesting Yankee when said Yankee is line to potentially replace a legend.
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Tags: Baseball, David Robertson, Ivan Nova, Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera, MLB, New York, New York Yankees, Rafael Soriano