Here are the defining moments and milestones in Mariano Rivera's legendary career as the best closer in baseball. Entering the 2013 season, Rivera has the most saves in MLB history with 608.
Feb. 17, 1990: Signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Yankees at age 21. He would spend the next five years in the minor leagues. In 1992, he was rated as the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect by Baseball America.
May 23, 1995: Made his MLB debut as a starter against the Angels in Anaheim. Rivera gave up eight hits and five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings and took the loss. Jim Edmonds hit a home run off Rivera in the fourth inning.
May 28, 1995: Rivera records his first win pitching 5 1/3 innings against the A's in Oakland. Rivera gave up seven hits and one run.
Oct. 4, 1995: Rivera makes his postseason debut against the Mariners in Game 2 of the ALDS. Rivera would pick up the win in relief after pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a 15-inning classic at Yankee Stadium. Rivera would make two more appearances in the series, which the Yankees lost.
May 17, 1996: Rivera notches the first save of his career against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. Rivera would be used as the primary setup man for John Wetteland for the entire season.
October 1996: Rivera becomes a household name this season and helps lead the Yankees to their first championship in 18 years. He goes 1-0 in the postseason with a 0.63 ERA. Rivera finishes third in the Cy Young voting and 12th in the AL MVP voting.
Dec. 16, 1996: Rivera takes over as closer at age 27 after the Yankees allow Wetteland to sign with the Texas Rangers as a free agent.
April 8-15, 1997: Rivera's transition to closer started out rocky as he blew three of his first six save opportunities.
1997 regular season: Rivera finished 6-4 with 43 saves and a 1.88 ERA. He was named to his first All-Star Game and tossed a perfect inning.
Oct. 5, 1997: Rivera suffers his first blemish in postseason when he served up a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar of the Indians in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS. The Yankees would lose the series in five games.
June 1, 1998: Rivera was asked to lockdown a six-out save for the first time in his career. He blew the save when he allowed two inherited runners to score. Rivera would go on to convert the next 22 save opportunities.
1998 regular season: Rivera finished the Yankees' historic 114-win season with 36 saves in 41 opportunities and a 1.91 ERA. He prevented 20 of 24 inherited runners from scoring.
October 1998: Rivera was 6-for-6 in save opportunities during the postseason during his 10 appearances. He tossed 13 1/3 scoreless innings and was on the mound for the final inning of each series clinching game. The Yankees ended the postseason with a four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
April 20-27, 1999: Rivera appeared in a career-high six consecutive games and recorded four saves during that stretch against the Rangers and Blue Jays.
July 22-Oct. 2, 1999: Rivera doesn't allow a run in his final 28 appearances (30 2/3 IP) of the 1999 season. He also converts his final 22 save opportunities. Rivera finishes the year with 45 saves in 49 chances and a 1.83 ERA. He was named an All-Star for the second time in his career but didn't pitch in the game due to personal reasons.
Oct. 27, 1999: Rivera becomes only the third reliever to be named World Series MVP. He was perfect in eight postseason appearances (12 1/3 innings) and was 6-for-6 in save opportunities. He was 1-0 with two saves in three appearances in the sweep of the Braves.
Feb. 21, 2000: Rivera loses his salary arbitration case with the Yankees. He is awarded $7.25 million instead of the $9.25 million he wanted.
July 8, 2000: Rivera saves both games of a home-and-away doubleheader against the Mets.
Oct. 8, 2000: Rivera saves the series clincher in the ALDS against the A's to give him 16 postseason saves. That passes Dennis Eckersley for the most all-time in postseason play.
Oct. 17, 2000: Rivera has his scoreless postseason innings streak snapped at 33 1/3 innings against the Mariners in Game 6 of the ALCS. He passed Whitey Ford's 33 scoreless postseason innings from 1960-62.
Oct 25-26, 2000: Rivera saves Games 4 and 5 of the Subway Series to clinch the Yankees’ third consecutive title. In doing so, Rivera passed Rollie Fingers for most World Series saves with seven.
Feb 17, 2001: Rivera signs a four-year, $39.99 million deal with the Yankees.
Aug. 1, 2001: Records his 200th career save with two scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers.
Nov. 4, 2001: On the verge of clinching their fourth consecutive championship, Rivera was on the mound in Game 7 against the Diamondbacks when they mounted a ninth inning rally to win the World Series. It was Rivera's first blown save in World Series play and first blown save in the postseason since 1997. Rivera committed a throwing error to second base and also hit a batter setting the scene for Luis Gonzalez's bloop single over Derek Jeter's head.
July 14, 2002: Rivera gives up six earned runs in a blown save against the Indians, the most he ever allowed in a relief appearance.
2002 regular season: Rivera battled through three separate stints on the DL because of a strained groin and shoulder. He finished the season with a career-low 28 saves and a 2.74 ERA.
March 24, 2003: Rivera pulls his groin in spring training and begins the season on the DL. He returns on April 29 after missing the first 25 games of the season.
June 13, 2003: Rivera pitches a scoreless ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals to save Roger Clemens' 300th win.
Oct. 16, 2003: Rivera pitches three shutout innings in Game 7 of the ALCS and earns the win after Aaron Boone's walk-off homer in the 11th inning. Rivera is named series MVP with two saves and a 1.13 ERA in four appearances.
March 14, 2004: Rivera, 34, signs a two-year deal worth $21 million with an option for a third year.
May 19, 2004: Becomes the fifth youngest pitcher to reach 300 saves, behind Robb Nenn, Lee Smith, John Wetteland and Trevor Hoffman.
Aug. 14, 2004: Rivera records his 40th save in the Yankees' 116th game, the quickest ever to do so. He beat Bobby Thigpen's record of 118 games in 1990.
Sept. 19, 2004: Rivera locks down his career-high 53rd save. He tied Randy Myers and Trevor Hoffman for fourth place on baseball's single-season all-time list. It's Rivera's second season of 50 or more saves joining Eric Gagne as the only closers to ever do that.
Oct. 9, 2004: While celebrating the Yankees’ ALDS victory over the Twins, Rivera learns that two of his wife’s family members were electrocuted in his pool in Panama. Rivera flew home to console his family and attend their funeral, but returned to the Yankees in time for Game 1 of the ALCS against Boston on Oct. 11.
2005 regular season: Rivera records a 1.38 ERA, the lowest of his career. Rivera converted 43 of 46 save opportunities for his sixth season of 40 or more saves.
June 6, 2006: Records his 391st career save, passing Dennis Eckersley for fourth place on the all-time list.
July 11, 2006: Rivera pitches a scoreless ninth inning for his third All-Star Game save tying him with Dennis Eckersley for the most all-time.
May 3, 2007: Saved both games of a doubleheader against the Rangers. It is the fifth time Rivera records two saves in one day in his career. Jose Mesa and Sparky Lyle are the only other pitchers to accomplish that feat.
Nov. 20, 2007: Rivera agrees to a three-year, $45 million deal making him the highest paid closer in baseball ahead of the Mets’ Billy Wagner and Toronto’s B.J. Ryan.
Sept. 15, 2008: Records his 479th career save to move past Lee Smith for second place on the all-time saves list.
Sept. 21, 2008: Pitches a perfect ninth inning against the Orioles to close out the final game ever at the old Yankee Stadium.
April 30-Sept 14, 2009: Converted a career-high 36 straight save opportunities. During that stretch, Rivera was 2-2 with a 1.44 ERA in 50 innings pitched.
June 28, 2009: Records his 500th career save against the Mets. In the same game, Rivera gets his first career RBI when Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez walked him with the bases loaded.
Nov. 4, 2009: Rivera records the last out of each series-clinching game in the postseason. He passed Whitey Ford for most appearances in World Series play with 23.
July 13, 2010: Named to his 11th All-Star game, tying Derek Jeter and Bill Dickey for the most in franchise history. Rivera did not attend the game due to a sore right knee.
Dec. 15, 2010: Rivera and the Yankees finalize a two-year, $30 million deal.
July 12, 2011: Rivera is voted to his 12th All-Star tying him with Derek Jeter for the most by a Yankee. Neither showed up to the game so they could rest nagging injuries.
July 24, 2011: Rivera records his 25th save of the 2011 season giving him 15 straight seasons of at least 25 saves. It was also the first time in 2011 that Rivera had to pitch more than one inning to pick up a save.
Sept. 13, 2011: Rivera became the second player in major-league history to reach 600 saves, pitching a scoreless ninth in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Mariners. It was Rivera's 41st save of the season and brought him within one of the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, who has 601.
Sept. 17, 2011: Rivera picked up his 601st career save, tying Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves record. Mo pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 42nd save of the season, capping off a Yankees comeback in Toronto.