NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Nathan never expected to be pitching for a save. Not with baseball's career saves leader alongside him in the bullpen.
The Texas Rangers closer was called upon to finish off the American League's 3-0 win Tuesday night in the All-Star game at Citi Field after Mariano Rivera came on for the eighth inning.
"I didn't know I was coming in to close until I was actually coming in from the bullpen," Nathan said.
No slouch of a stopper himself, Nathan has 328 saves for Minnesota, Texas and San Francisco in a 13-year career. He has 30 this season — the same as Mo.
But everyone in the bullpen was ready to defer to Rivera on this night.
The six-time All-Star struck out Matt Carpenter looking and Andrew McCutchen swinging before Paul Goldschmidt doubled. Nathan then retired fellow New York native Pedro Alvarez on a popup to second base.
After the final out, Nathan got the game ball but he knew it didn't belong to him. He gave it to Mo.
"No brainer. I wanted it, but I wanted to give it to him more," Nathan said. "Outstanding to be able to hand the ball over to him that I saved with him the in bullpen was pretty cool. No secret how much I look up to him and be able to do that for him was awesome.
CANO, CANO: Miguel Cabrera flung his bat into the stands when he swung and missed at a pitch from Patrick Corbin in the fourth inning. The flying bat nearly hit a child wearing, yup, a Robinson Cano Yankees jersey.
The real Cano had less luck than the boy. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch from Matt Harvey in the first inning and had to come out of the game.
"It's a little tight, I came out of the game because I didn't want to aggravate it," he said. "Nothing bad. They told me it's a bruise, and ice the next few days."
TORII TIME: Torii Hunter was an All-Star rookie in 2002 when he robbed Barry Bonds of a home run and got a big bear hug from the slugger on the field. Now he's a veteran voice in a clubhouse with a record number of newcomers.
The always loquacious, ever-smiling 37-year-old Detroit Tigers outfielder is enjoying his role as a five-time All-Star selection.
With possible suspensions from the Biogenesis investigation looming over the game, Hunter defended Alex Rodriguez and other players who have been implicated in drug scandals over the years.
"I know how hard this game really is. I don't care what they did or who did or whatever, Barry Bonds all those guys," Hunter said Tuesday before the game at Citi Field. "Still impressive to hit. Still got to hit the ball."
On the lighter side, Hunter has his favorite All-Stars. Wacky All-Stars, that is.
"David Oritz, for sure, craziest forever. He sits here and holds court and tells all the jokes," Hunter said. "He is one of the funniest guys in All-Star game history."
There's also: "Ichiro (Suzuki). Manny (Ramirez). Ah, Manny. Forgot about Manny. Ooh, boy he was crazy. Can't tell you the stories. Pedro (Martinez) was funny. He put bubble gum in everybody's hats."
"You got to have fun in this clubhouse," he added. "This is how we relax."
The one player he is certain isn't crazy: Yankees injured shortstop Derek Jeter.
"Jeter's smooth. He's like a cold drink of water. Too cool for school," Hunter said.
So what did Bonds say to Hunter 11 years ago when he scooped him up near second base in Milwaukee?
"'Good catch kid, high five,'" Hunter said "I went high, he went low and picked me up. I tried to hold him down. Too strong."