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Rivera named AL's Player of the Week

Rivera named AL's Player of the Week

The baseball world should have known better.

It should not have let itself be swayed by Mariano Rivera's off year in 2007, and been convinced into thinking one of the game's best closers was in the tail end of his career.

Maybe all that was premature.

And last week was just further proof.

Rivera recorded three saves without giving up a run, and on Monday was named the American League Player of the Week by Bank of America for the first time in his career, showing his reign as the dominant closer of this era is far from over.

"He's just so consistent," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said earlier this season. "Mo is one of those guys that what he does doesn't really faze you. You see how good he's been and you're never really surprised by any accomplishment that he reaches."

In four games last week, Rivera allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out seven to give him 15 saves on the year in 15 opportunities -- good enough for fourth in the AL.

After posting a 3.15 ERA last year -- his highest by 30 points since his rookie year in 1995 -- Rivera has shown there may be no end in sight to his illustrious career. This year, the 13-year veteran holds a 1-1 record with a 0.36 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 25 innings.

"You know the game is going to be over soon, because he's going to make it end," catcher Jose Molina said recently. "He's been around a long time, and he has that perfect movement and that perfect location."

Earlier this season, Rivera credited his turnaround to his increased opportunities in 2008. Last season, Rivera made 19 appearances and pitched 18 innings in the first two months. This year, the right-hander has made 23 appearances and pitched 25 innings in April and May.

"Last year, I didn't pitch at all almost in the first month," Rivera said in late April. "Now, I have a little bit more opportunities. If you have them, you take advantage of them."

On April 27, Rivera recorded his 450th career save in a game against the Indians at Progressive Field. Then, on May 7, the Panama native was named the DHL Delivery Man of the Month after going 8-for-8 in saves for the month of April. Rivera's 458 career saves are the most all time in the AL -- third in the Majors -- and his 810 career appearances give him the most of any pitcher in Yankees history.

"It's a blessing to have the opportunities, and you have to be blessed to pitch that long to achieve that," Rivera said recently. "It's not about numbers. It's about having the opportunity to help the team, because without having my teammates to give me the opportunities, I would never have that."

The Yankees went 3-3 last week, taking two of three at Minnesota before dropping two of three at Baltimore, and sit 6 1/2 games out of first in the AL East. New York will wrap up its four-game series with the Twins on Monday night at 7:05 ET before starting a seven-game homestand.

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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