Rivera staying sharp in reduced role
Backup catcher remains prepared despite limited playing time
MILWAUKEE -- Remember Mike Rivera?The Brewers' backup catcher is still on the active roster, but has been spending a lot of time in the dugout waiting for Jason Kendall to take a day off. That does not happen often; Kendall started 48 of the Brewers' first 54 games, including Thursday's 12 p.m. CT start that followed a night game. Rivera does usually make at least one daily appearance on the field; he often catches the ceremonial first pitch. Barring an injury, the trend will probably continue. Kendall is the only catcher in the Majors to start at least 130 games in each of the past six seasons. He ranked third in 2007 with 130 starts, ending a five-year run of leading the Majors in starts behind the plate. "I don't know how he does it," Rivera said. "Now he's 33 years old. At this stage in his career, I'm like, 'Wow.' He likes to play and his managers always like him to play, because they know he's so durable. That's nice to have. You don't have many players now who can do that." Rivera does his best to stay ready. At least twice per homestand, he takes the field early with bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel to practice blocking balls in the dirt and work on throws to second base. He participates in early batting practice every time it is held. There is also a mental aspect to staying sharp. Rivera participates in every pre-series pitchers' meeting, and he joins Kendall, pitching coach Mike Maddux and the starting pitcher for the daily rundown of an opponent's starting lineup. "I don't want to ever have to come into a game and ask, 'How are we going to pitch this guy?'" Rivera said. "I know what we are going to do with each hitter. I want to know that when I'm in, I'm ready." Rivera's last start came Sunday in Washington. He beat out Vinny Rottino and Eric Munson in Spring Training for a spot on the Brewers' Opening Day roster, his first appearance on an Opening Day roster since beginning 2002 with the Tigers. Rivera batted .321 with a home run and six RBIs in his first nine games this season, six of them starts. "It's hard, because you're used to playing more than 100 games a season," Rivera said. "But it just means that every time you're in a game, you have to take advantage of it. [Kendall] is out there every day, but you have to be ready for anything to happen. "I have to be mentally and physically prepared to play every day. If something happens, I'll be ready."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.