Who is Mike Rivera?

Adam LindemerSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2008

Not a lot of baseball fans can name their backup catcher, and I'm sure there are plenty of Brewers fans that don't realize Milwaukee even has one.

But on Aug. 10, everybody in Milwaukee was aware of whom that masked man not named Jason Kendall was.

Mike Rivera was only making his 13th start of 2008, and his 12th at the catcher position. That's because Jason Kendall is the gold standard for catchers. He starts 140-plus games every year and rarely needing a day off.

Actually, Rivera has played in just 17 games all year. Most of that is because when he doesn't start, he is the absolute last player used off the bench. Sometimes even pitchers will get a pinch-hit appearance before Rivera does.

In those 17 games, Rivera is batting .333, with an on-base percentage of .400. He also has five doubles and a remarkable 14 RBI. If you're doing the math at home, that means he averages about an RBI for every time he starts.

This is nothing new for Rivera, though. Ever since he broke into the league in 2001, he's been "the guy" behind the guy behind the plate.

In two seasons for the Detroit Tigers, Rivera played in 43 games, then in just 19 with the San Diego Padres in 2003.

Rivera spent 2004-'05 in the minor leagues with numerous teams before the Brewers claimed him off waivers in May of 2005.

He made it back to the big leagues in 2006, as the backup yet again, this time behind home-state favorite Damian Miller. That lasted two years, as Rivera played a total of 57 games for the Brewers, with 46 of those coming in '06.

Miller retired after the '07 season, and it looked like Rivera may finally get his shot as the main man behind the dish. But Milwaukee would go on to sign free-agent Jason Kendall, including giving him bonuses for reaching the 120, 130, and 140 game plateau.

Rivera has welcomed his role as the backup catcher, but the limited playing time definitely has not diminished his ability. Whenever No. 11 is in the game, you know he's going to produce.

Fast-forward to Aug. 10, the first action that Rivera has seen in two weeks (a July 27 start), and he's at it again. It would be so easy for a player to struggle because there is no repetition when you average three games a month.

In the eighth inning of the Brewers' third game of a four-game series against the Washington Nationals, Rivera walked up to the plate with the bases loaded and the Crew down three.

Rivera, who was cool, calm, and collected, hit a line drive down the left-field line for a double, which cleared the bases and tied the game at four. He finished two for three in the game, drew three walks and had three RBI.

Gabe Kapler would go on to win the game for Milwaukee in the bottom of the 13th inning with a solo home run off the left-field foul pole. But Rivera was the one that made it all possible.

Now it's back to the bench for Rivera, who will no doubt wait another two weeks before getting the opportunity to play again. But Rivera doesn't seem to mind because the Brewers are winning games, and he's living the dream of being a major leaguer.