Once upon a time, there was a pitching prospect in the Yankee’s minor league system. In six different seasons, he started 68 games out of the 102 that he pitched, all of them starts after his first pro season. In those 430.1 innings, he had a 3.03 ERA, 1.025 WHIP, 7.95 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, and a 3.92 K/BB.
The Yankees got nothing but good results from this guy. He clearly had great numbers as a starter and had a lot of potential. This guy never made it as a starter, though. He started just ten games for the Bombers and the results weren’t pretty: A 5.94 ERA. A 1.90 K/BB. A 1.680 WHIP. An .852 OPS against. After those poor ten starts, he never got a chance to start for the Yankees again.
(If you didn’t get it after that paragraph, I’m talking about Mariano Rivera)
What if the Yankees had displayed a little more patience with Rivera than they did? What if they didn’t move him to the bullpen for 1996 and beyond? Given the way we look at pitchers today, I think most of us would’ve said that Rivera should’ve at least been given the chance to fail (more) as a starter. If he was coming up today, wouldn’t we at least want him to get a full season as a starter before casting him off to the bullpen? Wouldn’t we say he just needs time to develop a third pitch, like a curveball or change up?
Thankfully, for all parties involved, the move turned out for the best. Rivera has gone on to become the game’s best relief pitcher for an inconceivable number of years. He may not have gotten an extended shot at the starting rotation, but he certainly made the best of his opportunity in the bullpen. It’s funny how things turn out, isn’t it?