Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano and New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera have been named the recipients of the 2013 National League and American League Comeback Player of the Year Awards, respectively, Major League Baseball announced today. The Comeback Player of the Year Awards are officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and presented annually to one player in each League who has re-emerged on the field during the season. The 30 Club beat reporters from MLB.com, the official web site of Major League Baseball, selected the winners from an original list of 30 candidates (one per MLB Club). The winners were revealed tonight as part of a special on ESPN2 created by MLB Productions and narrated by actor Keith David.
Liriano, who also won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2010, is now the first ever to win the award twice - and in each League - since the award's inception in 2005. After posting a 6-12 record with a 5.34 ERA in 2012, Liriano bounced back in 2013 to set a career high with 16 wins in his first season with the Pirates as he helped lead the club to its first Postseason berth since 1992. His 16 victories tied for third in the National League and tied for seventh in the Majors. The left-hander posted a 3.02 ERA, which marked his lowest since he compiled a 2.16 ERA during his rookie season with Minnesota in 2006. In 161.0 innings pitched in 2013, the Dominican Republic native permitted 54 runs on 134 hits with 63 walks and 163 strikeouts while holding opposing batters to a .224 batting average. Liriano held left-handed hitters to a .131 batting average, which led the N.L. and ranked second in the Majors. The 30-year-old fell one inning shy of qualifying for the N.L. ERA rankings, and his 3.02 ERA would have ranked 10th. The 2006 A.L. All-Star started and won Pittsburgh's first Postseason game in 21 years, a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the N.L. Wild Card Game. Francisco went 8-2 with a 1.26 ERA following a Pirates loss, and he was 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park. Liriano put his name in the Pirates record books from the start, becoming just the second Pittsburgh pitcher over the last 95 seasons to win each of his first three starts and allow one run-or-less, joining Dave LaPoint, who accomplished the feat in his first three starts with the Pirates after joining the team in August of 1988. In addition, Liriano became the first Pirates pitcher since Larry French in 1930 to record a decision in each of his first 22 starts of a season (French received a decision in each of his first 24 starts in 1930).
Rivera, who missed the majority of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, returned in 2013 to save 44 games, eclipsing Robb Nenn (43 in 2002) and Jeff Shaw (43 in 2001) for the most saves in a final season. The 43-year-old right-hander went 6-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 64 appearances with just nine walks and 54 strikeouts. The 13-time All-Star was named the Most Valuable Player in the A.L.'s 3-0 win at the 2013 Midsummer Classic at Citi Field in New York. The Panama native converted each of his first 18 save opportunities in 2013, marking the second-longest streak to begin a season in his career (converted first 28 chances in 2008). Overall, the streak was part of a stretch of 23 consecutive converted save chances dating back to April 10, 2012. Mariano earned 10 saves during the month of April, marking his most ever in April. In addition, it marked the 10th time in his career that he reached double-digit saves during a calendar month and the first time since July 2009. Rivera, who holds Major League Baseball's all-time saves mark with 652 career saves, converted 41 consecutive save chances at Yankee Stadium from March 31, 2011 through July 6th of this season, marking the second-longest such streak of his career behind a stretch of 51 consecutive converted save chances at home from August 2007-April 2010.
The 2009 World Series MVP picked up his 650th career save with 1.1 innings pitched at Baltimore on September 10th. Rivera, who is one of two pitchers in Major League history to record at least one save in 18 consecutive seasons (also John Franco), earned the final save of his career on September 18th at Toronto, and he made his final career appearance on September 26th against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Prior to Game 2 of the 2013 World Series, Commissioner Selig presented Rivera with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award.
Past winners of the Award include: Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey, Jr. (2005); Jim Thome and Nomar Garciaparra (2006); Carlos Peña and Dmitri Young (2007); Cliff Lee and Brad Lidge (2008); Aaron Hill and Chris Carpenter (2009); Francisco Liriano and Tim Hudson (2010); Jacoby Ellsbury and Lance Berkman (2011); and Fernando Rodney and Buster Posey (2012).