NEW YORK — In his final All-Star Game, Mariano Rivera will have his moment tonight — regardless of the score at Citi Field.
American League manager Jim Leyland would love to hand the Yankees' closer a ninth-inning lead to save, but "you can rest assured he will be on the mound in this game at some point," Leyland said Monday. "You will see No. 42 pitch."
And that's all Rivera could ask from his 13th All-Star appearance.
"That's why I'm here. That's what I would love to do," Rivera said of pitching in front of a New York crowd. "It would be nicer if there's an opportunity for me to save the game."
The last player in baseball permitted to wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42, Rivera spoke in front of the giant blue "42" in Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
Although Rivera has made his well-documented farewell tour around baseball, "I'm still not sold it's his last year," said Boston's Dustin Pedroia. "He's dealing."
Rivera, 43, has 30 saves and a 1.83 ERA, but he hasn't wavered on his spring training decision to retire after 19 seasons.
If only for a day, "It's pretty cool to be on his team," said Pedroia, whose rival Red Sox host the New York Yankees this weekend to open the second half. "The respect level's through the roof, the way he's gone about his business, the way he's competed, what he's done, the consistency — he's first class."
MIGUEL CABRERA has the kind of numbers that draw attention from fans.
It's the same reaction from his peers, too.
"That's just like, video game, and let's just go out and have some fun and smile and laugh when we strike out," Washington slugger Bryce Harper said. "It's just, Miggy is going up there and ... going 'Hey, if I don't hit a homer, I shouldn't be playing today.'"
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs last season, winning the AL Triple Crown. The third baseman is hitting .365 with 30 homers and 95 RBIs at the All-Star break this year. That's an impressive full season for almost any player. Let alone a first half.
Not that he's all that impressed with any of it.
"There isn't a lot of time to see that," he said. "Maybe if I see it in the game, you know how they put it on the scoreboard? So I think that's the only chance we got time to see it. Because you got to worry about other stuff, why are you going to worry about the stats?"
DESPITE HAVING the AL's second-lowest ERA, Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-6, 2.65) was not selected as one of the replacement pitchers, though he was on Leyland's short list.
The Baltimore Orioles' Chris Tillman (11-3, 3.95) got the final spot.
"I'd almost be embarrassed not to take a guy that was 11-3 at the All-Star break," Leyland said.
NL MANAGER Bruce Bochy of San Francisco said he would have tabbed New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey as his starter regardless if the game was played in New York or elsewhere.
"Just what a tremendous year he's had," Bochy said.
Both starting pitchers were beset with minor injuries in their last starts. Harvey pitched through a blister. Detroit Tigers righthander Max Scherzer was struck on the left wrist with a liner.
THREE YEARS SINCE being traded away by the Yankees, right-handed reliever Mark Melancon has an 0.81 ERA in 45 games for the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the Bronx, "the leash is just so much shorter. You don't get the opportunity to go through a struggle or two and that can be rough on your confidence," said Melancon, traded in July of 2010 to Houston for Lance Berkman. "I think given a little more time, you'd see the same results."
But Melancon still cherishes his brief association in the bullpen with Rivera.
"Just as cool as the other side of the pillow," Melancon said of his old teammate. "A fantastic person, a huge heart. There's just an ease about him that lends a confidence to everyone around him."
THERE ARE 39 first-time All-Stars on the 2013 rosters, which is a record. The game is prioritizing youth more than ever.
"We are seeing a rash or influx of tremendous young talent that really is changing our game," Bochy said. "I think they are just getting better, faster, bigger, stronger still, and it's impressive to watch these guys.
"You play a game now, and I see more pitchers throwing in the mid-90s than I've ever seen, so I do think we are getting some great talent coming up from all over the world to play baseball."