Mariano Rivera III following in father’s footsteps

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first_imgPitch 11: 88 mile-per-hour sinker swung on and missed. Strike one.Pitch 12: 91 mile-per-hour fastball fouled off. Strike two.Rivera left Iona in June as the team leader in strikeouts and ERA. His confidence, athleticism and mechanics culminated together. He entered the realm of professional baseball at his developmental peak, still unsure what he profiled as a potential major league pitcher.“He’ll find success,” McGrath said. “He’s never been one to back down. He’s got fire in his belly that keeps him going.”Pitch 15: 86 mile-per-hour slider swung on and missed. Strike three.Improvement with the Doubledays has come in stages.Pitching coach Tim Redding said he’s never made more mechanical changes with another pitcher as he has with Rivera, who bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation.Redding moved Rivera to the right side of the pitching rubber to create a more intimidating angle for right-handed hitters, who see many of Rivera’s pitches look tantalizingly close to hitting them.“As the levels get harder, you have to really learn how to pitch,” Rivera said.  “Here, you throw one, they see it. The next one they foul it off. The next one, if you throw it again, they’re going to square it up.”Pitch 17: 89 mile-per-hour fastball outside. Ball one.Pitch 18: 92 mile-per-hour fastball fouled off. One ball, one strike.Pitch 19: 88 mile-per-hour lineout to right field.The final two Scrappers hitters Rivera faced reached base, but he exited the game with his team ahead. A job well done in Redding’s eyes.Rivera’s pitching with a confidence that manifested itself from turning around a baseball career at a dead end. He’s found solace in his father’s nightly words of encouragement, knowing he’s finally well equipped to forge his own path to the major leagues.“His dad can’t pitch for him, I can’t pitch for him, and pitching coaches in the future can’t pitch for him,” Redding said. “He’s just got to be comfortable with himself and realize it’s just him out there and not everybody else.” Comments AUBURN, N.Y. — Mariano Rivera III held up one finger, signifying his final pitch.His feet shoulder-width apart atop the bullpen mound; his metal spikes cracking the littered sunflower seed shells. The glove on his left hand and ball in his right came together at his waist, and he rocked back to begin his throwing motion.The catcher’s glove popped as it halted the trajectory of Rivera’s 90 mile-per-hour projectile. Rivera hopped off the mound after throwing his final warm-up pitch, and exited to the field through the bullpen gate past his fellow relief pitchers clad in red Auburn Doubledays hoodies.Rivera recounted the methodology of pitching as he approached the mound to face the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the fifth and sixth innings on Aug. 26 en route to collecting his first professional win in the 27-pitch relief outing.“Staying calm and having a short-term memory,” Rivera said of knowing how to pitch. “Learning how to read the swings of batters.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“You know what pitch you threw and how they reacted.”Pitch one: 89 mile-per-hour fastball fouled away. Strike one.The 5-foot-11 right-hander developed rapidly in three years at Iona College and was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the MLB Draft this year based purely on ability, not because of a Hall of Fame pedigree as the son of former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.The younger Rivera persevered in his first professional season with the Doubledays, the short season single-A Nationals affiliate, who play 30 miles from the Syracuse University campus. He posted an underwhelming 4.15 earned run average, a struggle that helped him grow a new appreciation his “art.”The Rivera family lifeblood of pitching is on track to bear another success story.“I’m nothing like my father, I’m just starting,” Rivera said. “There’s nothing to compare. He’s up here and I’m down there.”Pitch five: 92 mile-per-hour fastball chopped foul. Two balls, two strikes.Pitch six: 84 mile-per-hour slider swung on and missed. Strike three.The fourth-round draftee has come a long way since maxing out at 82 miles per hour as a scrawny senior in high school, being used almost exclusively as a pinch runner.Equipped with nothing else but athletic genes and a familiar name, Rivera was taken under the wing of Iona pitching coach Sean McGrath in 2013. Despite a “vanilla” arsenal of three pitches, McGrath was amazed by Rivera’s arm speed.“There was little learning curve with him,” McGrath said. “It was, ‘hey, here’s your challenge, take it,’ and it was almost done.”Pitch eight: 82 mile-per-hour change-up swung on and missed. One ball, two strikes.Pitch nine: 91 mile-per-hour fastball grounded out to second base.McGrath unshackled Rivera’s lower body — improving his leg kick among other aspects of his windup — to give him up to 10 extra miles per hour on his pitches over three seasons at Iona.But as scouts dotted the stands to see Rivera in action his first two years, he faltered. Even with the blueprint for success in hand, an emotionally unstable foundation didn’t lend itself to building.Pitch 10: 90 mile-per-hour fastball blooped for a single.By Rivera’s junior year, McGrath helped his pitcher adopt the mindset that he didn’t need to impress every scout, just the right one.“They saw something that I myself didn’t see at the moment,” Rivera saidLogan Reidsma | Photo Editor Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on September 9, 2015 at 9:47 pm Contact Connor: | @connorgrossmanlast_img read more