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Yankees fans can now breathe at least somewhat of a sigh of relief.
Closer Mariano Rivera – a 12 time All Star and the all-time saves leader with 608 over his illustrious career – announced late Friday afternoon that he will not retire after suffering both a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus in his right knee while shagging fly balls during Thursday’s batting practice in Kansas City.
“I am coming back,” said Rivera, a five time World Series champion. “Write it down in big letters…I’m not going out like this.
“I love to play the game. To me, going out like this isn’t the right way… I don’t think like that. With the strength of the Lord, I have to continue.”
The 42-year-old Rivera’s right knee buckled after he extended his reach for a fly ball near the warning track of left-center field in Kauffman Stadium, causing him to critically injure it. Unlike most pitchers, Rivera actually enjoys shagging fly balls during batting practice, and makes it a part of his daily workout routine.
Rivera publicly hinted at the possibility of this being his final season in the Majors just before the 2012 campaign got underway. With that in mind, everyone who loves/works for the Yankees organization was certainly apprehensive that the freak injury could ultimately be the final straw for the greatest closer to ever take the mound.
But according to Rivera, a decision to not call it a career was made last night after speaking with Dr. David Altchek – the same doctor who performed shoulder surgery on him back in 2008. They discussed a time frame, and Altchek told Rivera that he could return somewhere between three and five months.
“Dr. Altchek said I could be back in three, four, five months,” Rivera said. “He said, ‘You’re a fast healer.’ I will do my due diligence, my research. I will talk to whoever I have to. Yeah, it hurts me, I’m sorry that I let my teammates down, but at the same time, I’m positive. I’m positive. This is going to pass. This is going to pass.”
If the recovery process does work out as Altchek claims the possibility of Rivera returning before this season’s conclusion could be a reality.
The popular consensus is that Yankees manager Joe Girardi will slide setup man David Robertson into the closer’s role until Rivera makes his way back onto the field.
Most believe that Robertson will eventually become the full time closer once Rivera walks away from the game. He is yet to allow a run in 11 innings of work this season, and finished the 2011 season with an astonishing 1.08 ERA and his first All Star Game selection.
Rivera’s contract with New York expires at the end of this year, but he is not concerned about not returning to the team as long he proves that he is healthy and can still get the job done.
The one they called Sandman just smiled and said, “They will want the old goat.”
In nine appearances this season Rivera has posted a 1-1 record, a 2.16 ERA and has converted five out of six save opportunities after blowing one during the first game of the season in Tampa Bay against the Rays.