Orioles manager Buck Showalter was Marian Rivera’s first big-league manager with the Yankees before then, he watched baseball’s all-time saves leader develop through the minor leagues.
So for Showalter, watching the video footage of Rivera misstep fielding a fly ball during batting practice, and the drastic injury is caused, was painful.
“Knowing Mo as well as I know him, I could tell by the look on his face coming off the field that something wasn’t right,” said Showalter, who managed the Yankees from 1992 to ’95, the latter of which was Rivera’s first big-league season. “I feel bad for Mariano more than anything. You just hope he doesn’t go out that way.”
The 42-year-old Rivera, who has saved a record 608 games, tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee, ending his season and putting his career in doubt.
“He was our best centerfielder," Showalter said. "We used to play a game in extended spring, we’d let the pitchers play a game off the coaches. I remember telling our farm director, ‘If we figure out that this guy can’t pitch, he can play centerfield.’
Showalter said Rivera shagging fly balls during batting practice was always an important part of his routine.
“He and (longtime Yankees CF) Bernie (Williams) used to go back and forth about who was the best centerfielder,” Showalter said. “It was part of his conditioning, part of why he’s been so good, his routine. I actually think if he hadnt done it that way for so many years, who knows what would have happened.”