There's never any guarantee that a relief pitcher will get into a game, but it seems like a good bet that Mariano Rivera will be coming out of the bullpen for the New York Yankees against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
The future Hall of Fame closer and last player to wear No. 42 is in his final season, and he'll be joined by teammates and opponents alike in wearing 42 on their jerseys as Major League Baseball commemorates the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.
Though the formal honoring of Robinson's feat took place Monday, as Robinson made his debut April 15, 1947, the festivities continuing a day later at Yankee Stadium seems particularly appropriate with Rivera appearing in uniform for the final time during the landmark anniversary. MLB retired Robinson's No. 42 across baseball in 1997, and Rivera will be the final one to wear it as he's announced his retirement after the season.
"As a minority, I feel honored wearing the No. 42 and carrying the legacy that Jackie Robinson left," Rivera told MLB's official website. "I wear it with good pride. That's the way it goes. All the guys retired or left, and I'm still carrying the number. I feel blessed for that."
If Rivera does pitch Tuesday, the Yankees hope it's with a chance to extend their surge. New York (6-5) has won five of six since a rough start, defeating Baltimore 3-0 on Sunday.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched a five-hitter for his fifth career shutout, the fourth strong performance by a New York starter in the six-game span. In those four contests - all wins - starting pitchers went at least seven innings each time, allowing two total earned runs.
Ivan Nova will have to be much better than he was in his first start to add to that trend. The right-hander, who hasn't pitched since April 5 due to two consecutive weather postponements and then being skipped in the rotation, gave up four runs in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-3 loss at Detroit.
Nova seemed to be nearly a sure thing when he took the mound during a 30-start stretch June 10, 2011-June 23, 2012, going 21-2 with a 3.71 ERA while the Yankees went 25-5. Since then, he's 3-7 with a 6.00 ERA in 15 games, with his team posting a 5-10 mark.
Nova has never faced Arizona.
The Diamondbacks (8-4) have also gotten some strong pitching of late, posting shutouts in two of their last three. Arizona defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 on Sunday behind Trevor Cahill and three relievers.
However, Arizona will also be sending a struggling pitcher to the mound Tuesday in Brandon McCarthy (0-1, 7.71 ERA). The right-hander gave up six runs - four earned - and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh last Tuesday in his second start.
"I apologized to him, because I feel like I called a really bad game," catcher Miguel Montero told MLB's website. "I think he had really good stuff going, I just didn't make the right calls.
"... I started mixing up, changing speeds more, because we were going hard, hard, hard. I think I'm going to grab what we did there and use it from now on, because it was pretty good."
McCarthy is 2-0 with a 5.29 ERA in three starts versus New York, the last coming in August 2011 while with Oakland.
Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, batting a team-best .348, had an RBI single in the ninth inning Sunday and has gone 4 for 8 in the past two games. Jason Kubel extended his hitting streak to six games Sunday for the Diamondbacks, among the NL leaders with a .269 batting average.
The Yankees' Francisco Cervelli and Lyle Overbay have each gone 7 for their last 16.