Rivera injury hits close to home for Henke

Mariano Rivera, on crutches, makes his way through the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium in...

Mariano Rivera, on crutches, makes his way through the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium in K.C. (Reuters)

Bob Elliott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

Mariano Rivera was not the first closer to partake in power shagging.

Tom Henke used to make like an outfielder during batting practice for the Blue Jays.

“There’s only so much standing around and telling fishing stories you can do,” Henke said Saturday morning after arriving at his farm from a fruitless turkey hunt in which he “never heard a gobble, gobble.”

Pals John Cerutti and Henke would play games of 500 ... “first to 500 points wins, you get 100 for a fly ball, 50 for fielding a ground ball.”

“It gave us a chance to act like outfielders, think we were outfielders and steal home runs from George Bell and Jesse Barfield,” said Henke. “We positioned ourselves and knew the pull hitters. It was tough to defend spray hitters like Rance Mulliniks and Al Oliver, but it gave us a chance to get in our running.”

Rivera was power shagging to get in his running Thursday during batting practice at Kauffman Stadium before the New York Yankees played the Kansas City Royals.

The closer’s cleats caught in the dirt of the warning track attempting to catch a fly off the bat of Jayson Nix. The game’s greatest closer, stumbled and his knee twisted awkwardly. He laid on the turf in pain, grabbed his right knee with a torn ACL. Rivera is gone for the season.

“He amazes me,” said Henke of Rivera, who leads with 608 career saves, plus 42 in post-season play leading the Yanks to five World Series.

“Mariano has done it and he’s done it all with one pitch, his cutter. He’s probably the best ever.

“But he’s no spring chicken, he has to be careful.”

Henke was happy to hear Rivera, who turns 43 in November, plans on pitching next season, and recalled his own outings power shagging. 

He had been with the Jays for 46 days after being recalled from triple-A Syracuse when the team arrived in the Bronx for a four-game series leading the Yanks in the American League East race by 21/2 games in September of 1985.

It was termed “the most important series in franchise history” by one Toronto paper. 

“That was my first time there in a pennant race. The atmosphere was unbelievable, 54,000 people trying to rattle us,” Henke said. “They were throwing New York adjectives at us during batting practice when I showing outfielders how good an outfielder I was, taking home run balls off the fence.”

Then, like Rivera, it went bad. Henke hit the wall hard, so hard it knocked him to the warning track. Manager Bobby Cox started yelling at Henke from behind the batting cage.

“I rammed the wall with all I’ve got. Guess I wasn’t the sharpest,” Henke said. “This was before Bobby has his knee operations, his hip replacements and he couldn’t walk too good. He came running screaming ... not too happy.”

Cox had a meeting with Henke in the clubhouse explaining “we’re paying you to close games at 10:30, not shag balls at 5:30.” 

Henke was relegated to standing behind a screen in shallow centre putting balls in the bucket for the remainder of the season.

Leading 4-2 in the seventh inning, shortstop Tony Fernandez and second baseman Damo Garcia had a mixup on an inning-ending double play ball to open the door to a six-run Yankees rally in the opener.

The Jays won the next three with Henke saving two games. 

“That would have been great if I’d injured myself late in race. The press would have run me out of town,” said Henke. who saved 217 games for the Jays, was the closer on the 1992 World Series team, saved 311 in his 14-year career and last summer was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  

After being on bucket duty under Cox and behaving under manager Jimy Williams, Henke fought the wall under Cito Gaston, tearing his groin in April of 1991 and wound up on the disabled list. 

“The roof was open at the SkyDome, it was cold and windy,” said Henke. “I tried to make a hard cut, change directions. That’s when I felt it.”

Henke was sitting on the front porch of his 800-acre farm Saturday 35 miles from Toas, Mo. 

Daughter Linsay Henke, a senior forward for the Quincy University Hawks, earned Great Lakes Valley Conference first team honours and was named to the 2011-12 Daktronics all-region team, averaging 13.7 points per game, leading with 8.2 rebounds per game and setting a program record for blocked shots with 69.  

Now, it was time for Henke to go back to talking about the hunt, the lack of turkeys and the mosquitoes.

“I’m glad there weren’t more than three or four around me, any more and they would have carried me off, ” said the 6-foot-5 former closer. “Remember these are Missouri mosquitoes.”

FANS LOVE RIVERA

When it looked as if New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera’s career might be over after he tore his ACL on Thursday in Kansas City, ESPN.com asked readers to rate where Rivera ranked on the all-time list of Yanks, which included: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Don Mattingly, Thurman Maunson, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth and Rivera.

My first four matched the top four the 3,895 fans voted for: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. Then, I had Rivera, Jeter and Berra, since Jeter nicknamed Rivera GOAT, short for the Greatest of All Time.  

The fans voted Jeter, Berra and Rivera on spots 5-7, with Rodriguez dead last. Wherever you slot Rivera, it says a lot about a franchise when fans vote the greatest closer the seventh best Yankee of all time.

Lefty David Robertson, an all-star last season, will fill in for Rivera. Robertson had three career saves when he took over. Rafael Soriano has 90 career saves.

But don’t fret for the Yanks. They’ll add an arm or two before the July 31 deadline. 

ORIOLES STAFF MOWING ’EM DOWN

A rotation of Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez and Scott McGregor.

Or Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Wei-Yin Chen and Brian Matusz?

Which Baltimore Orioles group is more impressive? Well, we have to go with the O’s with the rings, but this year’s group is putting up zeros non-stop: 10 of the starters past 12 outings were quality starts, helping Baltimore go 10-2.

The O’s had not held the Yanks to two runs or fewer for three consecutive games in the Bronx since 1978. Flanagan allowed two runs on May 31, 1978, Palmer had a shutout the next day. Then, Flanagan and Don Stanhouse held the Yanks to a run on Baltimore’s next visit that August. 

Against the Yanks, the bullpen didn’t allow a run in 5.2 innings. The Yanks won 2-1 on Monday, lost 7-1 on Tuesday before being blanked Wednesday. 

The O’s have a 41.9% chance of making post-season play according to ESPN’s Hunt for October.

20 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK

Day-by-day on the way

to the 1992 World Series

n April 29: Todd Stottlemyre pitched a complete-game 1-0 win over the Angels, fanning five. John Olerud singled off Jim Abbott with two out in the ninth, Rob Ducey pinch ran, Candy Maldonado singled, Pat Borders reached on an error and Pat Tabler walked in the only run.

n April 30: Dave Winfield, representing the tying run, was out at the plate on Darryl Hamilton’s throw on Maldonado’s single to right in a 3-2 loss in Milwaukee. The Brewers scored three in the eighth against Duane Ward, the final run Franklin Stubbs stealing home.

n May 1: Jimmy Key gave up a three-run homer to Greg Vaughn and a solo shot to Robin Yount in the seventh in a 4-3 loss.

n May 2: Jack Morris gave up homers to Stubbs and Vaughn in a 5-4 loss, as Tabler had three hits.

n May 3: Stieb tossed a complete game to beat the Brewers 4-1, thanks to back-to-back homers by Carter, and Winfield.  

n May 4: Stottlemyre, Ward and Henke combined to beat the A’s 7-3. 

n May 5: Juan Guzman moved to 4-0 as Carter and Kelly Gruber homered in a 5-1 win over the A’s.  

MAY 6, 1992: 19-9, First place, a game up on the Orioles

KELLOGG TOP CANUCK

Whitby’s Ryan Kellogg remains the top Canadian with the June draft 25 days away. The Ontario Prospects lefty is ranked 228th on Perfect Game’s Scouting Service’s top 400 combined prospect list of high schoolers and collegians. London right-hander Dayton Dawe of the Ontario Terriers is next, listed at No. 340. Late-blooming 6-foot-8 right-hander Brock Dykxhoorn of Clinton, Ont, and the Ontario Nationals is 353rd and Calgary outfielder Tyler Hollick of Chandler-Gilbert College is 391st. 

Brampton outfielder Sean Bignall is tied second for second in NCAA home run race. Bignall has 17 homers in 45 games for the Arkansas Little Roock Trojans. He’s hitting .356 with 56 RBIs.

n Jeff Francis, of North Delta, B.C., went eight years between wins at the triple-A level. Pitching for Louisville, he worked eight innings in a 2-1 win over Norfolk to earn CanadianBaseballNetwork.com player of the week honours, as the best of the 58 Canucks in the minors. Francis had been busy pitching for the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals before signing with the Cincinnati Reds between triple-A outings.

A  Royals scout saw Francis’ best start of the year. The lefty had not been at triple-A since 2004 at Colorado Springs.

 

 

 


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