Little Sandman: Nats draft Mariano Rivera III in 4th round
NEW YORK (AP) Enter Sandman - the sequel.
Iona College right-hander Mariano Rivera III, son of the former New York Yankees closer, was drafted in the fourth round with the 134th overall pick Tuesday by the Washington Nationals.
Rivera was 5-7 with a 2.65 ERA and a school-record 113 strikeouts with 27 walks in 85 innings this season for the Gaels, while also being selected the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's pitcher of the year.
''I just think it's fantastic,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said before his team faced the Yankees in the Bronx on Tuesday night. ''I know there's a proud papa, for sure.''
While his famous father saved a major league-record 652 games, the younger Rivera - technically Mariano III, but often called Mariano Jr. by friends and family - has been a solid college starter with six complete games, including three shutouts.
Rivera III was drafted in the 29th round by the Yankees last year, but opted to return to school for his junior season.
''Obviously, he comes from a great baseball background,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, adding that it's ''a big day for the young man and for `Big Mo.'''
While he doesn't quite have the devastating cutter that made his father so dominant during a 19-year major league career, the younger Rivera has a fastball that hits the mid- to upper-90s (mph) consistently, along with a solid curve and slider.
He bears a striking resemblance facially to his father, although the 21-year-old Rivera takes a smaller frame to the mound at 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds; the elder Rivera was listed at 6-2, 195.
''The fact that Mariano's kid is as good as he is right now, I'm sure his father had a lot to do with that and he has the genes there,'' said Kris Kline, the Nationals' Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Scouting Operations. ''He's not a tall kid, but he's got big shoulders, long arms, big hands. ... That really helps as far as durability for his size.''
Jeff Zona, the Nationals' Special Assistant to the President of Baseball Operations and GM, also serves a national cross-checker in the East and watched Rivera pitch this spring.
''It was just somebody that, for me, he just was one of my favorites,'' Zona said, ''and I think that we got a good one.''
Rivera wasn't the only player with baseball bloodlines selected during the second day of the draft. Missouri State outfielder Tate Matheny, son of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, was drafted by Boston early in the fourth round.
''Couldn't be any happier for him,'' the elder Matheny said. ''This team's been on him for a while and they know what he can do. It's going to be fun to watch him jump in.''
The younger Matheny, a 23rd-round pick by the Cardinals out of high school in 2012, hit .291 with five homers and 43 RBIs for the Bears this year, along with a team-leading 12 stolen bases.
He was tracking the draft online with his father in St. Louis' clubhouse in Colorado a few hours before the Cardinals played the Rockies when his name came up. The elder Matheny turned to hitting coach John Mabry and joked about how the Red Sox have won two World Series against the Cardinals in recent years.
''Tate was saying he hopes it's one more,'' Matheny said. ''That didn't go over real well in our clubhouse. He almost wore out his welcome real fast.''
Michigan State outfielder Cam Gibson, son of 1988 NL MVP Kirk Gibson, was drafted in the fifth round by Detroit - the team that took the elder Gibson with the No. 12 overall pick in 1978. Cam Gibson was drafted in the 38th round by Arizona in 2012 while Kirk was managing the Diamondbacks, but opted to go to Michigan State, where his dad also played his college ball.
Santa Clara third baseman Jose Vizcaino Jr., son of former shortstop Jose Vizcaino, was taken by San Francisco in the seventh round. Colorado high school shortstop Nicholas Shumpert, son of former infielder Terry Shumpert, was also drafted in the seventh by Detroit.
Among other notable selections was Texas drafting Duke right-hander Michael Matuella, who had Tommy John surgery in April, early in the third round. Matuella was considered a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick entering the season.
Right-hander Jacob Nix was taken by San Diego in the third round with the 86th pick after failing to sign with the Astros, who drafted him in the fifth round last year. Nix's deal, which included a big slot bonus, came off the table after Houston's agreement with No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken fell apart. Aiken also failed to sign, and was drafted No. 17 overall by Cleveland on Monday night.
The Mets went after Division I statistical leaders during the draft's second day. They took Miami third baseman David Thompson, tied for the lead with 19 homers, in the fourth round. Texas Tech reliever Corey Taylor, who sports an NCAA-leading 0.31 ERA, went in the seventh. Two rounds later, the Mets selected Evansville outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski, who hit .465.
The draft started Monday night with the first two rounds, and runs through Wednesday, when rounds 11-40 will be held via conference calls.
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker in New York, and AP freelance writers Michael Kelly in Denver and Harvey Valentine in Washington contributed.