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10/24/06 11:30 AM ET

Rivera is DHL Delivery Man of the Year

Second consecutive year Yankees closer takes home honor

NEW YORK -- At the current pace, the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award may eventually be renamed after Mariano Rivera.

That's because the Yankees closer picked up the honor for the second time in the award's two-year history, beating out nine of the best relievers in baseball.

The Delivery Man of the Year Award is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball, recognizing the most outstanding relief pitcher of the season as voted on by the fans. From Sept. 25 through Oct. 9, fans cast nearly 90,000 votes for the award on MLB.com.

Rivera, who garnered 18,559 votes, helped the Yankees win their ninth consecutive American League East Division title by saving 34 games in 37 opportunities. He finished the year with a 1.80 ERA, striking out 55 batters and allowing 61 hits over 75 innings pitched.

In recognition of this honor, DHL will donate $15,000 in Rivera's name to the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program, an MLB youth-outreach initiative designed to increase participation and interest in baseball, encourage academic participation and achievement and promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the game of baseball.

The eight-time All-Star also earned the save in the American League's 3-2 win in the 77th All-Star Game. The save was Rivera's third in the Midsummer Classic, tying him with Dennis Eckersley for the most in Major League history.

Rivera posted solid numbers both on the road and at Yankee Stadium, where he converted all 20 of his save chances with a minuscule 1.51 ERA in 32 games. In 31 games away from the Bronx, Rivera struck out 31 batters while walking just four.

If there were any question as to how important Rivera is to the Yankees, it was answered during the first three weeks of September, when Rivera sat out with a mild muscle strain in his right forearm. The Yankees mixed and matched out of the bullpen, using Kyle Farnsworth as the primary closer -- and causing many stressful moments for manager Joe Torre.

"I think we all take 'Mo' for granted," Torre said. "When he's not available to you, if we didn't have the sizeable lead we had, there would have been a lot more uncomfortable nights in that dugout."

This season, Rivera became just the fourth reliever in history to compile 400 saves, reaching the milestone on July 16 against the White Sox. Rivera is the only one of the four 400-save members (Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith and John Franco are the others) to record all of his saves with one franchise.

"Personally, I think it's a great number for a reliever," Rivera said. "I never thought I would be talking about getting close to 400 saves, especially with one team. It's amazing. Without my teammates, I couldn't have accomplished anything."

Rivera's 413 career saves are the most ever in the AL, ranking him fourth on the all-time list. He also holds the records for most postseason saves (34) and appearances (73), posting a minuscule 0.80 ERA in the playoffs over his career.

"Mo has done things that nobody else in the history of the game has done," said Derek Jeter. "We wouldn't have the success we've had without him. Only a few teams in history have had the luxury of having someone they can count on every single day. He's been pretty much automatic."

Rivera beat out San Diego's Hoffman, Chicago's Bobby Jenks, Minnesota's Joe Nathan, Boston's Jonathan Papelbon, the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez, Toronto's B.J. Ryan, the Mets' Billy Wagner, Seattle's J.J. Putz and Detroit's Joel Zumaya for the award.

To create the ballot, an initial list of 15 relievers was compiled by the editorial board of MLB.com. The 10 finalists were chosen from this list of nominees by a special "yellow-ribbon" panel consisting of newly inducted Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter; former manager/player Lou Piniella, Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB historian and a member of the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame; and Bob Watson, MLB's vice president, on-field operations.

Throughout the season, the panel also selected the monthly Delivery Man of the Month Award, which went to Papelbon (April), Jason Isringhausen (May), Jenks (June), Nathan (July), Rodriguez (August) and Hoffman (September).

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