As the New York Yankees head to Texas to face the Houston Astros in a meaningless series, there is really only one thing that needs to be done to cap the season. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has to send Mariano Rivera to a place he’s never been before: Playing center field for the first time in his career.
In what has been an emotional sendoff for the legendary closer, in which he pitched up to the standards — what everyone expects from Mo — why not let him play in the outfield? There is absolutely nothing to lose. Rivera shags fly balls during batting practice before every game, so he knows how to track off the crack of the bat. He is also widely known as one of the best athletes on the team, and even at the age of 43, he proved his athletic and defensive prowess just last night when he snagged a comeback groundball while reaching across his body to get one of the final outs of his life.
It has been reported that Girardi is contemplating making this decision and there shouldn’t be much thought put into it. Rivera has yearned to play a different position throughout his career, despite his dominance at his spot on the rubber. He deserves this chance and there simply couldn’t be a better time to try it out. The only worry is that ridiculous hill that the Astros have placed in center field at Minute Maid Park, which brings last year to mind when Mo tore his knee up at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City in center during BP.
But in a surprising move that Girardi pulled last night, sending in Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to pull Rivera with two outs in the ninth, who knows how he’ll play this out. If he even does send Mo to the outfield — after the first ball he gets in center — he could get yanked prematurely like last night. If Rivera does get this chance, it would be another magical moment in a career that has had too many to count, and it would reduce the oldest player in baseball into a 25-year-old rookie once again.