At the start, an uncharacteristic role for Mo
All-time saves king began his Major League life as a starting pitcher
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
History will remember Mariano Rivera for his work in the ninth inning, of course -- for mowing down opposing batters and efficiently locking down the final three outs with ease.
It's almost bizarre to recall, then, that Rivera didn't finish the game in his Major League debut. He started it.
Rivera's first moment in the Major League spotlight came in the first inning, as a 25-year-old starting-pitching prospect for the Yankees. That was the way Rivera made his Major League debut, starting against the then-California Angels on May 23, 1995.
Rivera threw 3 1/3 innings that night and took the loss, the first of a career defined by saves and Yankees victories. He gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out five. He was hardly the efficient hurler he'd grow to be, needing 89 pitches to record 10 outs.
Fresh up from Triple-A Columbus, Rivera hadn't yet discovered his signature cutter. But he had added some speed to his straight fastball, running it up to 95-96 mph. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the Majors, Tony Phillips and Jim Edmonds. Primarily throwing fastballs, sliders and changeups, he got through two innings without allowing a run.
A few bits of trivia from Rivera's first Major League "Mo"-ment: Tim Salmon recorded the first hit off Rivera, a first-inning infield single. Eduardo Perez drew the first walk against him. His first run came at the hands of Greg Myers, who lined an RBI single to left field to score Salmon. Edmonds was the first one to take Rivera deep, blasting a three-run homer shortly before Rivera's first big league appearance came to an end.
The future Hall of Famer lost to Chuck Finley that evening at Anaheim Stadium, as Finley dominated the Yankees in a two-hit, 15-strikeout shutout. That season would be manager Buck Showalter's last with the Yankees.
Rivera remained in the rotation to make his next start, a victory against the A's in which he allowed one run on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. The day after Rivera's first Major League win, a 20-year-old shortstop made his Major League debut. His name was Derek Jeter, and he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
Rivera made 10 starts in '95 before his permanent move to the bullpen. He went 5-3 with a 5.51 ERA, numbers hardly indicative of the legendary closer's future. He came back in 1996 as a dominant setup man, finishing third in that year's American League Cy Young Award voting and 12th in the Most Valuable Player balloting.
A little less than a year after his Major League debut, on May 17, 1996, he faced the California Angels in New York. He faced three batters and recorded his career first save -- just the way history will remember him.