Sergio Santos, a budding closer at the time, sought out Mariano Rivera when the Sox were in New York in late April. He wanted to pick the brain of the best there ever was and had a conversation he'll never forget.
"It's amazing,'' Santos said of Rivera's nine pitch - all for strikes - ninth inning on Monday night. "The first thing you notice is how loud the cheers were he got at a visiting stadium. That's the respect he's earned.
"His sustained success is the crazy thing about it. To have that kind of consistency over the years is remarkable.''
With 1,021 appearances, Rivera went into the Yankees game at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night needing one more to tie Jose Mesa and Lee Smith for 10th place on baseball's all-time games pitched list. Santos' next appearance will be his 100th.
When the two closers spoke in April, Rivera emphasized the importance of focusing on each pitch, not letting the mind wander, throwing strikes and attacking hitters.
"That's a conversation I still go through in my head,'' Santos said. "To see him go out and do what he said is pretty fun.
Santos would welcome another talk. He got his first two saves of the season in New York, and has added 20 since then.
Santos' success goes hand in hand "with experience, not only with closing but just pitching,'' he said. "Getting put in different situations, having different feelings and dealing with that. Every inning is a new experience and you gain something each time to make you better.''