08/25/2004 9:15 PM ET
Notes: Rivera on record pace
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Mariano Rivera's career has been marked by his postseason brilliance, as many have tabbed him as the best relief pitcher in playoff history.
|Mariano Rivera says he's not focusing on any personal records, just helping the Yankees win. (Winslow Townson/AP)
But the six-time All-Star might be able to add another line to his Cooperstown resume this season, as he chases Bobby Thigpen's 14-year-old record for saves in a single season.
Rivera has 43 saves through the first 125 games, putting him on pace for 55. But a majority of the Yankees' remaining games are against sub-.500 teams, giving Rivera plenty of opportunities to add to his total.
The 34-year-old doesn't seem to care whether he gets to 57. As long as he throws the final pitch of the baseball season to win a fifth championship ring, he'll be happy.
"What record?" said Rivera when asked if he thought he could break it. "I'm just thinking about my game. We need to win. That's all there is. It's not on my mind."
"[It would be nice] if it happened in the course of winning a pennant," said manager Joe Torre. "But just to send him out there and hope for the situation, I know that isn't important to him."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rivera recently passed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley as the American League's all-time saves leader with 326. Eckersley is second with 324, while Roberto Hernandez (316), Troy Percival (308) and Jeff Montgomery (304) round out the top five.
Rivera has pitched in three consecutive games this week, notching saves in each of his last two. The right-hander has not allowed a run in his last 11 outings, lowering his ERA from 1.70 to 1.39.
"I feel good. I'm throwing well," Rivera said. "I'm pitching more often, which gets me in a good rhythm. When you don't pitch, it's tough."
After the Yankees lost six of seven games last week, Rivera's pace for Thigpen's record lost a little steam. Not that he's worried about it.
"We have to keep winning, get back on track," Rivera said. "Whatever happens, happens."
Lofton lineup switch: Kenny Lofton, who entered Wednesday's game needing one hit for 2,000 in his career before his single in the fourth inning, started for New York as the designated hitter, just the third time this season he has served as the team's DH.
In fact, it had been so long since Torre last made Lofton DH, he forgot that he had done so this season. Lofton was the DH on April 7 and April 9 this season.
"I don't think I've DH'd him before, since Spring Training maybe," Torre said. "Bernie [Williams] hasn't been out there for a while, so I wanted to get him out there."
Lofton had just one hit in his last 10 at-bats over the last five games before he reached his personal milestone. Lofton was also mired in slumps of 3-for-23 and 5-for-39 entering Wednesday's action.
Relief rumblings: Steve Karsay (shoulder surgery) was scheduled to throw two innings for Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday, then join the Yankees in Toronto later this week.
Karsay will throw a bullpen session or two with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, then be activated from the DL on Sept. 1.
Felix Heredia, who is working out some mechanical kinks in the minors, was moved to Double-A Trenton, where he will pitch in relief Wednesday night. Heredia had been pitching for Class A Tampa.
"They probably want to increase the competition," Torre said.
Torre doesn't expect Heredia back by Sept. 1, though he does expect him to return sometime next month.
Minor league report: Andy Phillips, who is tied for fourth in the Triple-A International League with 24 home runs, homered and drove in four runs in a 9-2 win for Columbus. In that win, Bubba Crosby went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. Brad Halsey earned his 10th win of the season, lowering his ERA to 2.78, third in the league. ... Mitch Jones (Trenton) is leading the Eastern League with 65 extra-base hits, is second with 95 RBIs and 84 runs scored, and third in slugging percentage at .580.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.