The Comeback Player of the Year: an award you never want to be a candidate for, but one which, if you win, represents a triumph. It’s gotta feel pretty good overall. And Mariano Rivera and Francisco Liriano are probably feeling pretty good today, because won the Comeback Player of the Year Awards for the AL and NL, respectively, last night.
The award, voted on by MLB.com writers, is presented annually to one player in each league who has re-emerged on the field during the season. Often the award is given to a player who missed a season or a large part of a season due to injury or illness. But, as is the case with Liriano, it can go to a guy who simply bounced back from ineffectiveness.
And Liriano was in the competitive wilderness for a while. He posted ERAs of 5.34 and 5.09 in 2012 and 2011, with a combined record of 15-22 bouncing from the Twins to the White Sox. This season he put it altogether, though, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts for the Pirates. This after breaking his arm in the offseason. He was a key part to the Pirates improbable playoff run.
As for Mariano Rivera: the fact that I forgot he was injured and missed most of 2012 with that ACL injury until I saw the announcement probably tells you that it was a pretty good and thorough comeback. Indeed, he didn’t miss a beat in his final year, saving 44 games while compiling a 6-2 record with a 2.11 ERA and 54 strikeouts and nine walks. All at age 43.
You may recall that, back in May, Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor got into a fight with Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. Bautista slid late into second base, with which Odor took issue, so he punched Bautista in the face. That earned him a seven-game suspension.
With one out in the fifth inning of Thursday’s game against the Indians, Odor reached on a fielding error by first baseman Mike Napoli. Jonathan Lucroy then hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Odor slid hard into Jason Kipnis covering second base.
Kipnis, hearkening back to the Bautista fight, backed up as if he were afraid Odor would punch him. Odor got a good chuckle out of it, but it was the Rangers’ bench which perhaps enjoyed the joke most. The Rangers’ broadcast showing Adrian Beltre cracking up and telling his other teammates what had happened.
Rangers outfielder Carlos Gomez made his debut with his new team on Thursday night after a brief stint with Triple-A Round Rock. He started in left field and was inserted into the number eight spot in the Rangers’ batting order.
The Rangers made two quick outs in the bottom of the second inning, with Adrian Beltre grounding out and Rougned Odor striking out. But the inning was kept alive as Jonathan Lucroy singled and advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and then Mitch Moreland walked to bring up Gomez.
Gomez took a first-pitch cutter from Josh Tomlin for a ball, then jumped on another cut fastball, drilling it for a no-doubt three-run home run into the seats in left field at Globe Life Park in Arlington (#29 out of 30 in Craig’s ballpark name rankings).
Here’s the video.