Let's get this out of the way at the very start -- there's no replacing Mariano Rivera.
That said, the Yankees will need someone other than Rivera to pitch the ninth inning -- something that they haven't had to do for any extended period of time over the last 15 seasons -- after Rivera suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee before Thursday's game in Kansas City.
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Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't want to address just who would take over the ninth inning, but he does have two good options in David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.
Since his All-Star appearance a year ago, the 27-year-old Robertson has been perceived as the heir apparent to Rivera -- and for good reason. Last season he had a 1.08 ERA in 70 games, serving as Rivera's primary setup man. This year he's been even better, having yet to allow a run in 11 outings. So far he's struck out 18 of the 42 batters he's faced, allowing seven hits and three walks.
Even though Girardi has said he'd like to sleep on his decision, Robertson will likely get the call if the Yankees have a lead in the ninth inning on Friday.
Robertson has three career saves, so it's possible Girardi would want to keep Robertson in his eighth inning role and go with the more experienced Soriano, who recorded 42 saves in 2010 in Tampa and has 90 career saves. Soriano, 32, struggled in his first season in New York, putting up a 4.12 ERA last season, but has been better in 2012. Soriano has a 2.25 ERA, but a 2.000 WHIP, in eight innings this season.
While the mood was reportedly somber in the Yankees' clubhouse following Thursday's loss -- and understandable so -- it was more for concern of the person than the team. The bullpen is one of the team's strengths.
In addition to Robertson and Soriano, Cory Wade (1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 innings) and lefty Boone Logan (0.96 ERA in 12 games) have been outstanding. The team could also move Phil Hughes back to the bullpen when Andy Pettitte returns to the rotation. Whether Rivera returns to the team or not, the Yankees will be fine -- nowhere near as good, because Rivera, even at 42, is still the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history -- but they'll certainly be good enough to win.
"Good teams overcome things," Girardi said. "We want to play in October, we've got to overcome."