Tom Wilhelmsen continues to make the case for himself as one of the best closers in the American League. He's probably among six closers -- Mariano Rivera (a lock because of sentiment and skill), Baltimore's Jim Johnson, Chicago's Addison Reed, Texas' Joe Nathan and Toronto's Casey Janssen -- who have a shot at the All-Star game. Had a quick chat with him in Yankee Stadium about Mariano Rivera:
You are around 600 saves behind Mariano Rivera. Your thoughts?) (Laughs) "Cool."
When you look at Mariano as a fellow closer, what do you think?) "I’ve just been watching him his whole career. My father grew up a Yankees fan. So, we were always watching the Yanks. I remember watching him dominate and not much has changed."
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Is it amazing that a pitcher can be so effective for so long with one pitch?) "Yeah, it is. It’s something obviously pretty special because nobody else is doing it and he’s been doing it for so long. The command he has with that pitch and where he can make it start and end up is pretty amazing."
Why can’t anyone duplicate it?) "There’s a bunch of factors that go into it. Arm action, release point, pressure on fingers. Arm slot. Wrist slot. There’s a just a bunch of things that can affect the movement of the ball and he might just have that particular set of tools to make it happen that way."
Is there anything you took away from him or other closers as you’ve evolved into this role?) "I’ve got to find out what works for me. If I try to replicate him, that’s not pitching the way I’m supposed to pitch and that’s certainly not … I got here based on how I pitch, not ho I’m trying to pitch like somebody else."
What do you take from his demeanor?) "He’s not too showy and I respect that tremendously. That’s great. Here it is, get the job done. All right, we got it, yeah, you look up to him for it."