- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
NEW YORK -- Brady Anderson played against Mariano Rivera for years and said Saturday he has never actually spoken with the closer, which is not unusual. Rivera has always kept his distance from opposing players. But Anderson greatly appreciates Rivera for the way he has competed, and like so many others, Anderson has his stories about trying to solve the puzzle that Rivera's cut fastball presented.
For the record, Anderson did fine against Rivera: In 22 at-bats, he had six hits, including a couple of doubles, a walk and two strikeouts. Facing Rivera was a comfortable at-bat, explained the former Orioles outfielder, who now serves the team as its vice president of baseball operations.
But in the at-bats that Anderson had against Rivera, he estimated that Rivera wrecked his bat eight times -- or more than a third of those matchups -- because of that hard, late movement that has distinguished Rivera's cut fastball and separated him from all other pitchers.
"I actually thought about training myself to swing where I thought the ball was going to be [rather than where it actually was]," he said with a laugh. "I actually thought that."
Anderson recalled that two of his most prolific teammates, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar, shared a small bat that they employed only against Rivera. It was 32 inches in length, which made it easier for the hitters to manipulate in the effort to get inside of Rivera's cutter, and the bat was special enough to Alomar and Palmeiro that they bestowed a nickname upon it: Stumpy.
So Stumpy would stay stored away, like a secret weapon, until Rivera was on the mound. Then Stumpy would emerge.
Anderson loved his at-bats against Rivera because of the puzzle involved. You knew that he would throw strikes, Anderson said, and you knew that he wasn't going to mess around. Anderson appreciated the fact that Rivera was never about drama and was only about competing.
Most left-handed hitters would try to stand in front of the box against Rivera, closer to the mound, to try to get ahead of the cutter. Anderson would stay more to the back of the batter's box, trying to react to the movement of the pitch, thinking of ways to anticipate it. Midway through Rivera's run as a closer, Anderson thought, the pitcher made an important adjustment, occasionally attacking the arm-side part of the plate -- outside corner to lefties, inside to right-handers -- to keep hitters off balance. Rivera had a knack for knowing when to mix it up, Anderson felt; if Anderson tried to commit to looking for something inside on a particular pitch, that's exactly when Rivera would throw outside.
One day, in his ongoing quest to figure out Rivera, Anderson reached into the Orioles' bat rack and pulled out Stumpy -- without asking Alomar or Palmeiro.
It was a dramatic change for Anderson, who swung a large bat (about 34 1/2 inches). And when Rivera busted him inside with a cutter, Anderson swung Stumpy -- and the precious bat exploded.
Anderson laughed as he told the story, and he couldn't remember Alomar or Palmeiro saying anything after he had broken their bat. Probably because Rivera had broken all of their bats at one time or another.
Rivera -- the last No. 42 -- could face the Orioles tonight on "Sunday Night Baseball."
News and notes
• Watch this pitch that Evan Gattis hit off Stephen Strasburg for a home run Saturday: Absolutely ridiculous, in a great way. He got on top of a 96 mph fastball enough to drive it out for a decisive home run, despite Strasburg's velocity and movement.
"The guy's up there hacking," Strasburg said of Gattis, who has homered in three of four games. "I threw one at his neck, and he tomahawks it out. You don't really face a guy like that ever. You don't really have any book to go off of."
Gattis, 26, hadn't played above Double-A before winning a major league job as a non-roster invitee at spring training. Now "El Oso Blanco" -- Spanish for the White Bear -- is hitting .333 in 30 at-bats and leads major league rookies with four home runs and eight RBIs in eight games.
Harvey is the third pitcher since World War II to start a season with three straight starts of seven-plus innings and three hits or fewer (Nolan Ryan, 1970 Mets, Jim Rooker, 1979 Pirates).
From The Elias Sports Bureau: Harvey is the first pitcher in modern major league history (since 1900) to win each of his first three starts of a season, with at least 25 strikeouts and six or fewer hits allowed over those three games.
• The Rangers are poking around and doing some early reconnaissance on how they could put together some kind of a deal for Giancarlo Stanton.
• The Diamondbacks asked Dodgers fans sitting behind home plate to change shirts or to give up their seats.
This seems nuts from a business perspective. If I were selling tickets, I wouldn't worry about the shirt color of the guy whose money I was taking.
• How good is Chris Davis' throwing arm? The Orioles actually use him as the primary relay man on balls hit to right field, rather than a middle infielder; it's an assignment rarely given to a first baseman.
2. A five-man infield wasn't enough for the Rays.
6. Sale says he is innocent, writes Mark Gonzales.
7. The Astros' winning streak came to an end.
9. The Diamondbacks couldn't dig out of a hole.
10. The Padres are 2-9 after their latest loss.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Marlins signed David Aardsma to a minor league deal. He'll get an opportunity to pitch there.
3. The Orioles have interest in trading for Julio Borbon, who was recently designated for assignment by the Rangers, but the asking price is high.
Dings and dents
1. The Cubs put their closer on the DL.
Ninety wins might be enough in this division, writes Tyler Kepner.
The Orioles are showing their ability to bounce back.
Bruce Rondon is focusing on developing his talent in the minors, George Sipple writes.
Nolan Ryan is staying and Randy Galloway wonders if everybody is happy. From Galloway's piece:
But is Nolan happy?
Bottom line: Nolan darn sure better be happy. If not, then don't stay.
So what about it, Nolan? You say what?
"Under the new structure, I'm looking forward to getting out and doing more things," Ryan answered Friday. "I'm not going to be involved in the day-to-day operation with the Rangers, so if I want to go see the kids in Hickory [the Crawdads being a Class A farm club], I will pick up and go.
"Same way with our clubs in Frisco and Round Rock. There will still be decisions to be made in Arlington, but I won't have the day-to-day stuff as much."
Is that happy?
Well, it certainly sounded like this was appealing to Ryan. Somewhat anyway. But in the Friday conversation, the coconut-cutting-time question was also asked. Retaining the title of CEO, it would indicate Ryan is in charge, at least in the corporate-world definition of CEO.
But say there's a major disagreement between Ryan and the Rangers new president of baseball operations, Jon Daniels. Or there's a major disagreement between Ryan and the new president of business operations, Rick George. (I can't imagine Rick George flexing muscle on Nolan Ryan, but these are interesting new times in Arlington.)
It will happen, of course. There will be major disagreements.
"In that case, should it happen, then the final say on major decisions will come down to Ray and Bob," Ryan answered.
Buster Olney recounts a funny tale involving Mariano Rivera and Brady Anderson and provides news and notes from around baseball.