Ernesto Frieri on Mariano Rivera: ‘I can’t compare to that guy.’

Ernesto FrieriErnesto Frieri, who turned 28 Friday, has 45 saves and 278 strikeouts since he made his pro debut with the San Diego Padres in 2009.

That’s 874 fewer strikeouts and 593 less saves than this year’s All-Star game MVP, Mariano Rivera.

Rivera pitched the eighth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star game, retiring the first three batters he faced. Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan pitched the ninth inning to earn the save.

Rivera, who holds many records to his name, was the first reliever to ever receive the MVP award.

Frieri admired he didn’t watch the All-Star game this year because he needed a break from baseball, and took that time to take his daughter to Disneyland.

However, what he has seen is the greatness that Rivera has brought to the game since his pro debut in 1995.

“I can’t compare to that guy,” Frieri said. “He’s the best closer ever. Those are the guys you want to imitate. I want to be like that guy one day.

“It’s going to be hard. I don’t have the nasty cutter. I have the will, the heart, but it’s going to be hard.”

Asked if he could ever imagine matching Rivera’s longevity, Frieri responded, “I wish.”

Frieri, who earned his first career save on May 23, 2012 against the A’s, had 23 saves in the first half of the season. It’s the first time he’s closed from the start of a season.

“The confidence they gave me makes me work hard,” Frieri said. “They’re using the right guy in the right situation. I’m still learning the role.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.