Book looks at Rivera and rest of Yankees bullpen

“Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees” (Harper), by Charley Rosen: Forgive New York Yankees fans if they get nervous when one of the team’s relievers takes the mound. The 41-year-old lights-out closer, Mariano Rivera, appears to defy time with every cutter he throws for a strike. Fireballer Joba Chamberlain is young, naturally gifted and inconsistent. And the rest of the bullpen has been a mixed bag over the last couple of years.

Charley Rosen – author, basketball coach, NBA analyst – takes a unique look at the cast of characters who worked the Yankees’ 2010 bullpen in his latest book, “Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees.”

This is not one of those exhaustively reported, intimate narratives that provide insights into the players across the ups and downs of a long season. And it’s not exactly a behind-the-scenes expose. While Rosen peppers the book with anecdotes and interviews, the bulk of it is a game-by-game recap of the bullpen’s performances with Rosen’s brief analyses and letter grades for each relief performance. Rosen focuses more on the pitchers’ mechanics than their personalities.

The approach can be enlightening. Rosen gives a good sense of what scouts see when they assess pitchers and how former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland would tweak his relievers’ deliveries to give them better command. But reading the game-by-game reports over the course of a long season can get repetitive. How many times do you want to read about a poorly located fastball?

And absent a compelling narrative drive, the book can read like yesterday’s news. A few examples: Eiland was fired last October, pitcher Kerry Wood has moved on from the Yankees and Alfredo Aceves now takes the mound in a Red Sox uniform. Rosen’s game-by-game analysis might have worked better as a blog posted as the season progressed.

Rosen is a veteran author with experience as a basketball coach, including a long-ago stint as a minor-league assistant to his buddy Phil Jackson. He’s an interesting guy, and the best bits of the book are when Rosen writes first-person about visiting the Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton, or his Yankee-loving youth in the Bronx. He’s the sort of guy who gets excited about getting Don Larsen’s autograph as a grown man, and can write engagingly about the encounter.

Rosen has a nice voice. But to put it in pitching terms, the mechanics of this book are a little bit off.