Yankees closer Mariano Rivera tore his ACL while shagging fly balls before Thursday night's game against the Royals. The injury will likely end Rivera's season, and possibly his illustrious career.
The injury is a devastating one for New York. Since 1997, the Yankees haven't had to worry about their closer. No other team in the MLB can make that claim. Now, the Bronx Bombers must find a replacement for the best relief pitcher in the history of the game.
Who will get the unenviable task of replacing Mariano Rivera? After New York's 4-3 loss to the Royals, manager Joe Girardi said he would sleep on the decision. There are a few ways the Yankees can go after losing their closer one month into the season.
David Robertson is the logical choice to be the Yankees closer for the rest of the season. Many believe Robertson is already set to replace Rivera when he retires. He has been used as the Yankees eighth inning reliever since last year, and it wouldn't be much of a transition to start using him at the end of games.
For as good as Rivera has been, even at this stage of his career, Robertson has probably been the best reliever in the league since 2011. Last season, Robertson had an incredible 1.08 ERA, and struck out 100 batters in just over 66 innings. He was selected to the All-Star team, and received a fifth place vote for the AL Cy Young award. He still hasn't allowed an earned run this season.
The biggest question about Robertson is his lack of experience as a closer. He has just three saves in his career, which dates back to 2008.
If the Yankees want a closer with experience, Rafael Soriano will be their guy. Soriano was signed by New York last season to a three-year, $35 million dollar contract. At the time of the deal, it seemed like the Yankees were preparing for Rivera's eventual retirement, at which point Soriano would take over as the team's closer.
Soriano hasn't exactly been worth the money the Yankees gave him a year ago. He struggled with injuries last season, and finished the 2011 season with a 4.12 ERA. He's been better this year, pitching to a 2.00 ERA.
Robertson is a better pitcher than Soriano, but Soriano's experience in the ninth inning could force Girardi to name him as the team's closer. He has 90 career saves, and excelled in that role with Tampa Bay in 2010. He saved 45 games for the Rays the year before joining the Yankees.
The injury to Rivera certainly hurts the Yankees, but Robertson and Soriano are qualified to do the job. It's now up to Girardi to decide which one will be given the tough task of taking over for the greatest of all time.