Believe it or not, even the greatest closer of all time occasionally needs a tune up. Mariano Rivera spent part of Monday going over his release point on the pitches Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit for home runs over the weekend.
The review process involves pitching coach Larry Rothchild watching the tape and spotting the release point of the three pitches that were flat or had little or none of the late life that often allows Rivera to be effective.
“The release on the ball is not consistent,” Rivera said. “When you’re consistent, the ball has sharper breaks.”
None of those three pitches had any movement, which is why — with a little over a month left in his career if the Yankees miss the playoffs — Rivera is still working to fine tune things.
“You want to make sure the ball stays where you want it,” Rivera said.
Rivera has five blown saves and three have been due to allowing home runs. He gave up a home run to Adam Jones on July 7. He also had a blown save when he did not record an out for the first time in his career May 27 against the Mets and last Wednesday when he was strike away in Chicago.
Rivera’s poor location on those pitches over the weekend has led to him blowing three straight saves for the first time in his career.
“He’s earned it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the amazement of when Rivera blows a save. “I don’t think there’s any relief pitcher close to what he’s done.”
Even with that blip, Rivera seemed to enjoy the good-natured give and take with the group of reporters in front of his locker, even drawing laughs.
“You have to enjoy it. The game is hard enough,” he said. “I’ve always been like that. Not only in the good times, but also in the bad. I can’t grab a bat and start chasing reporters.”
In other words don’t expect him to pound water coolers like Paul O’Neill famously did or slam his hand against a wall like Kevin Brown did in September 2004.
Instead, Rivera will enjoy the once-a-year conversation when people wonder if there’s anything wrong.
“It’s what I’ve been doing for 19 years,” Rivera said when asked about concern. “I don’t worry about it. We always have this kind of conversation. Early, late, middle of the season. It happens.”
Trout talks PEDs
Angels slugger Mike Trout spent the morning of his second appearance at Yankee Stadium talking about the recent steroid news.
A week after 13 players were suspended for their involvement with Biogenesis, Trout took the airwaves of WFAN and addressed the topic with “Boomer and Carton” on the morning drive show.
“To me personally, I think you should be out of the game if you get caught,” Trout said. “It takes away from the guys that are working hard every day and doing it all-natural.
“Some people just are just trying to find that extra edge. It's tough as a guy that goes out there and plays hard every day and puts [in] 110 percent effort. ... To wake up, see there's a list of guys that are on the list, it's good that MLB caught them and they're moving in the right direction with suspensions and stuff.”
Before Monday’s game, Trout did not elaborate on his comments and deferred to Angels player representative C.J. Wilson.
Scioscia did not respond to Trout’s comments directly since he had not heard them but did address the topic.
“I think the deterrent to keep playing a level playing field has been scrutinized over the years,” Scioscia said. “When it began, there was none, then it was 10 games and the second time you were caught people were dealt 50 or 100. I think it will continue to be scrutinized.”
Derek Jeter is a week into his third disabled list stint and slightly continued increasing his baseball activities from a calf injury by doing tee and toss work Monday. Jeter began throwing over the weekend while the team was on the field taking batting practice.
He will continue doing work by going to Tampa but there remains no definite date for his third return from the DL.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.