Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon likened Uehara to Fernando Rodney, who saved 37 games for Detroit in 2009, served mostly as a setup man during two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, then emerged as a top closer for the Rays before signing with Seattle. Rodney succeeded when he commanded his changeup and Uehara excelled when he mastered his splitter.
Rivera became baseball’s greatest closer because of his cutter, which shattered bats of hundreds of left-handed hitters
“I have to believe the common thread is a great other pitch, which more than likely is going to be a changeup or a split,” Maddon says. “The way that Rivera did it consistently for so many years, it seems it’s difficult today to get relief pitchers to be consistent for that many consecutive years.”
Rodney’s changeup fell into place because of a change in his mechanics.
“A pitcher always lifts his foot. So I stayed in my slide step and got the same velocity, everything the same,” he says. “I pitched really well in the Dominican Winter League and I came to spring training continuing to work. And I got a lot of positive results.”
With Rivera’s retirement, 39-year-old Joe Nathan becomes the active saves leader with 341. He’s preparing for his first season with the Tigers, a “Guys and Dolls” pairing of Nathan-Detroit.
Robertson, who turns 29 next month, has all of eight career saves to his credit. When Derek Jeter retires at the end of the season, Robertson will become the longest-tenured Yankees player if he remains with New York, by one day over outfielder Brett Gardner.
Friends have texted him congratulations on taking over Rivera’s role. He keeps saying it’s no big deal, that he’s approaching the ninth in the same manner he pitches the eighth.