It’s going to happen one day. Mariano Rivera is going to retire. The Yankees’ Hall-of-Fame closer is 41-years old, and while he’s shown very few chinks in his armor, chances are he will probably hang up his cleats when the two-year contract he signed this off-season ends.
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It’s a scary prospect: a bullpen without the Sandman. But there is a young righty pitching for the Yankees already who looks like he could step into the role, perhaps even right now if need be.
David Robertson has both the talent and the fortitude to take on the closer role. He’s stepped up to being the eighth-inning guy, the guy you go to when the game is on the line. He’s also gotten a bit of a reputation as a Houdini. Many times he comes into a game with men on base, but rarely do they cross home plate.
Robertson has a fastball that tops out around 93 mph, but it’s his delivery that is the difference maker. He has an exceptionally long stride and reach — he releases his fastball seven feet from the front of the pitching rubber. For comparison’s sake, the league average for a fastball extension is five feet, 10 inches. What that all means is that his fastball gets on the hitter like he’s throwing 95 mph, with more movement than the average fireballer. Thus, all the swings and misses.
Robertson’s repertoire includes a curveball and a change-up. While the change will never be his go-to pitch, he’s shown he’s not afraid to throw it just to keep hitters on their toes.
At one time everyone thought it might be Joba Chamberlain who would fill the closer role for the Yankees. I’m not sour on Joba — in fact I’d love to see him in the rotation; however, I think Robertson fits the Yankee mold better. He has the temperament of a Rivera. He’s not demonstrative. He rarely fist pumps or wildly gesticulates when he gets out of a jam or cleans up a mess on the bases. He doesn’t glare or have wacky facial hair. In fact, his most notable characteristic is a bit old-timey: his high socks. He even began a charity called High Socks for Hope to raise money for those affected by the tornadoes in his home state of Alabama.
Not a very intimidating character, unless you’re in the batter’s box. Then good luck making contact.