I’m guessing Yankees fans have heard this story before, but I don’t recall it. Here’s Bob Klapisch, relating the story of Mariano Rivera discovering his cutter. Given how dominant and unique Rivera is, it’s not terribly unlike a superhero creation story:
Its genesis is well known in the Yankees’ family, although Rivera still takes pleasure in explaining how a simple game of catch with Ramiro Mendoza changed his life 15 years ago.
“All of a sudden the ball started moving, cutting, in a way I’d never seen before,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t doing anything different, yet it had a life of its own. So, tell me, how do you explain that? [Mendoza] kept asking me what I was doing to make the ball move like that, and I had no answer. To me, the pitch was a gift from God. How can I really teach this pitch if I can’t explain how it came to me in the first place?”
And that’s the crux of Klapisch’s piece: Rivera will try to teach it to anyone who wants to learn it, but no one else can do it. His remains the single most lethal pitch in baseball after all these years, and it remains his alone.
I never get too wrapped up in mythologizing baseball players. But if one of our era deserves it, it’s Rivera. He’s just a different case altogether.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.