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Chad Green follows in the footsteps of a Yankee legend

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The right-hander's career path and accomplishments have so far mimicked those of fellow second-year reliever Mariano Rivera's in 1996.

Chad Green pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning at Progressive Field on August 4, 2017.
Chad Green pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning at Progressive Field on August 4, 2017.
Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

A young pitcher named Mariano Rivera reported to spring training in 1996 without a guaranteed spot on the roster. He had made a string of starts for Buck Showalter’s Yankees before moving to the bullpen during the team's playoff run the previous year. Rivera had been unspectacular in either role but made the staff coming out of camp to begin his second year.

New manager Joe Torre initially used Rivera primarily for mop-up duties, but the young right-hander quickly rose on the depth chart to become the premier setup man in baseball. He was a key contributor to the Yankees’ 23rd World Series championship run, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting and receiving MVP votes in the process.

Like his legendary predecessor, Chad Green served as both a starter and reliever during his rookie campaign. He entered camp this year as a primary contender for the fifth spot in the Yankees' rotation, barely being edged out in that competition by upstart Jordan Montgomery. Green started the 2017 season in Triple-A and didn't make his first appearance with the big league club until May 9th.

Green has since become one of Joe Girardi's most trusted and consistent arms in the bullpen. As Joel Sherman recently noted in his column for the New York Post, Green's accomplishments have been nothing short of historical.

"Among relievers with at least 60 innings, Green’s .145 batting average against is the 12th best" since the liveball era began in 1920, writes Sherman. "Green’s .706 WHIP is 11th best."

This year as a reliever, Green has a 1.73 ERA, .706 WHIP, .145/.205/.242/.447 quadruple slash line, and 13.9 strikeouts per nine. He trails only Craig Kimbrel in each category, who is having a historically great season of his own.

To put Green's performance in further context, Rivera finished his breakout campaign with a 2.09 ERA, 0.994 WHIP, a .189/.258/.228/.486 slash line, and 10.9 strikeouts per nine. Yes, Green has been that good.

Whereas Rivera was used primarily in the eighth inning during his sophomore season, Green has flourished in the role of fireman in his. Entering the game when the starter tires — often in mid-inning with runners on base — Green has excelled at getting the team out of the jam and returning to the mound to pitch one or more additional innings.

Twenty-eight of Green's 34 relief appearances have been for more than one inning. He has entered the game with runners on base 19 times, allowing only four of 28 inherited runners to score (14.2%).

Surrounded by a group of dominant relievers in the Yankees’ pen which includes Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, and Tommy Kahnle, Green has really found a niche for himself. He gives Girardi the flexibility to keep starters on a short leash, knowing that Green can be the shutdown bridge to the late-inning corps. The strategy has paid off: Green is 5-0 on the year and the team has won all four games in which he has appeared in September.

Will Green continue to dominate as the Yankees move into the playoffs, as his legendary predecessor once did? Stay tuned.

Some things are clear though. The Yankees’ management made some tough calls in moving Luis Severino from a relief role where he excelled back into the rotation, giving Montgomery the fifth starter nod over Green, and moving the latter into the bullpen. The club was correct in all three decisions. Severino has become one of the best starters in the league, Montgomery has done a great job at the back end of the rotation, and Green has become a weapon out of the bullpen — the likes of which we have rarely seen.

What do you think about the way Chad Green has been utilized and his performance so far? Let us know in the comments section below.