Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano posted his best season since 2006, one year after notching a 5.34 ERA, and was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year on Monday, becoming the first player to win the award twice.
In the American League, Mariano Rivera completed the turnaround from a torn ACL in 2012 to save 44 games, a new record for a closer in his final season. The 43-year-old right-hander went 6-2 with a 2.11 ERA, 54 strikeouts and nine walks.
The Comeback Player of the Year Awards are 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 selected the winners from an original list of 30 candidates (one per MLB club). The winners were revealed Monday night on ESPN2.
After a rough year with the Twins and White Sox in 2012, Liriano broke his arm in the offseason and didn't make his first start with the Pirates until May 11. But he had plenty of time to win 16 games, post a 3.02 ERA and strike out 163 batters in 161 innings for the Pirates. He won the Pirates' first postseason game in 21 years during a 6-2 victory over the Reds in the National League Wild Card Game.
Liriano was 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park.
"It's been a very, very good place for Frank to pitch," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Just with the sequence of pitches, the ability to spin the ball, still ride the fastball, pitch the right-handers in the big part of the park -- the left-center-field notch out there. It's all worked out very well for him."
Rivera, who tore his right ACL while shagging fly balls before a game in Kansas City in May 2012, could have called it quits on a prolific career. Instead he worked his way back to dominance, earning All-Star honors while converting his first 18 save opportunities of the season.
"I really believe that, in our lifetime, I don't know if we'll be able to say that about another pitcher that can do what he's done at 43," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I really don't. We have watched something that is truly special."
Rivera, one of two pitchers in Major League history to record at least one save in 18 consecutive seasons (Mets reliever John Franco is the other), earned the final save of his career on Sept. 18 at Toronto. He finished as the all-time saves leader with 652.
"There is no sadness at all," Rivera said after his final game. "Definitely, I've been ready for this moment. I'm OK with it, I'm happy with it and I will move on."
Both pitchers also won the Players Choice Award for Comeback Player in their respective leagues.