Ever since closer Mariano Rivera joined the New York Yankees in 1995, he has been viewed as one of a kind by team mates and he fittingly made that accolade official on Monday with his 602nd career save.
The 41-year-old Panamanian, nicknamed Mo, reached the milestone after preserving a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, putting him one ahead of Trevor Hoffman to set Major League Baseball's career saves record.
Rivera has long terrorized opposing batters as an unstoppable force in late innings and former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada has never doubted the closer's unique place in the sport's pantheon.
The best ever, Posada was quoted as saying by the Yankees website. I keep saying the same thing over and over again, and it sounds repetitious every time I talk about Mo, but it's true.
There's nobody (who's) ever going to get close to what he's been able to achieve, because there's nobody better. It's just that simple.
Posada first met Rivera in 1994 when they were both with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and his initial opinion of the softly-spoken right-hander from Panama has remained the same.
Ever since that day, I said this guy was going to be pretty good in the big leagues, Posada, who claimed the Yankees catching job in 1998, recalled.
There was something extra on that fastball that nobody else had, the life coming out of his hand, his makeup. Everything that he's been doing here, we saw it down there.
Rivera has grown accustomed to winning, claiming the 1999 World Series MVP award and being selected for 12 All Star teams while registering a career earned run average of 2.22 on the strength of a single pitch -- a late breaking, cut fastball.
With his easy motion and exploding cutter, Rivera became the Yankees closer in 1997 and has since added a sinker to his pitching repertoire.
MAKING IT SIMPLE
He made it really simple for me, five-time All-Star Posada said. He was a two-pitch pitcher and it was more about location than anything with him. Cutter, sinker, and make sure the location is there, and go to work.
In May, the evergreen Rivera became the first pitcher to make 1,000 career appearances with one team but he remains one of the most humble players in baseball.
I'm a team player, the slender Panamanian told reporters after becoming the second pitcher ever in the majors to reach 600 career saves earlier this month.
I tell you guys many times and I'll continue to tell you, it doesn't depend on myself. It depends on my team mates giving me the opportunity to be able to pitch.
Rivera has helped define the Yankees dominance with his playoff performances and he is the all-time leader in post-season saves with 42.
For Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Rivera's stature as a reliever for the ages has never been in doubt, and reaching the 600 benchmark simply underlined that fact.
It takes probably most of the arguments away that he's the greatest closer of all time, Girardi said.
I'm not taking anything away from Trevor Hoffman and all the guys but I think you have to look at his (Rivera's) postseason work as well.