Even after No. 300, Rivera focused on postseason

Even after No. 300, Rivera focused on postseason

The 300-save barrier had been crossed before, but when Mariano Rivera reached that milestone on May 28, 2004, he became the first Yankees pitcher to do it, and only the fourth pitcher to do it exclusively for one team. It might not have been a unique moment or a record-breaking achievement, but it was seen as significant to many.

To Rivera, it was just another regular-season save.

Even on a day when 300 seemed to be a big number, he mentioned how 30 was a much more important one -- that's the number of postseason saves he had at the time, already a record that he extended to 42 by the time he announced his retirement in 2013.

In so many words, he said you can save the 300-shaped cake and instead focus on getting to October.

"It's good, but there are other things," Rivera said. "Winning a World Series, it doesn't compare to that."

Added then-Yankees manager Joe Torre: "That's No. 300, but his most significant ones aren't even in there. And his whole career is all about the postseason and the World Series."

As it turns out, 300 wasn't even the halfway point toward his all-time record total that continues to climb deep into the 600s in his final season at age 43. And Rivera's 17th save of the 2004 season was only one step along the way to a career-high total of 53 in 57 chances, resulting in Rivera placing third in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

It was at Tropicana Field against the then-Devil Rays that Rivera reached the 300-save mark. After allowing a leadoff single to Aubrey Huff, Rivera saved the 7-5 victory by striking out former teammate Tino Martinez before getting Jose Cruz Jr. to pop out and Julio Lugo to line out to Tony Clark at first base.

Rivera was 34 at the time he crossed that 300-save barrier, about the same age many of the now 25 members of the 300-save club were when they did it. But he'd been to the World Series six times by then, more than enough times to know that the pursuit of a trophy always comes first. So, even a number as impressive as 300 wasn't something Rivera thought a lot about as he passed it.

"One day I will," Rivera said. "Right now, I don't pay attention to my numbers."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.