Mariano Rivera expects to be ready for season opener

Mariano Rivera looks on from the dugout during

Mariano Rivera looks on from the dugout during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 3, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Cue up "Enter Sandman."

That was the message Yankees closer Mariano Rivera relayed Wednesday, when he insisted that he'll be ready to add onto his all-time saves record once Opening Day rolls around.

"I don't see why not," Rivera said at Yankee Stadium. "We have at least three months, four months to that point. I'll be ready."

Aside from a few tosses during a commercial shoot last month, Rivera has yet to throw a baseball in his rehab from knee surgery. But he plans to begin throwing soon to prepare for spring training, when he typically takes on a light workload leading up to the regular season.

His surgically repaired right knee is still not 100 percent. But the 43-year-old said he is regaining strength.

"The leg's getting stronger and stronger and that's it," said Rivera, who helped collect donations for the team's annual Yankees Holiday Food Drive. "You have to give it time. I'm doing my part and time is doing his part."

Rivera ended any speculation about retirement earlier this month by signing a one-year, $10-million contract that will bring him back for his 19th big-league season. By making good on his vow to pitch again after tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls during batting practice last May, Rivera will have a chance to tack on to his record 608 saves.

"I feel good," said Rivera, who posted a 2.16 ERA last season, though the injury limited him to only five saves in nine appearances. "I'm doing my job, doing what I have to do to get ready, and I'm OK."

Once again, the Yankees will need Rivera's reliability. Rafael Soriano, who stepped in during the closer's absence, elected free agency and is unlikely to return. Meanwhile, the rest of the roster has undergone some reshuffling, with two more players expected to officially enter the fold.

The Yankees remain close to hammering out the details on a new contract for outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Meanwhile, the team expects this week to officially sign former Red Sox foe Kevin Youkilis to a one-year, $12-million deal.

"Those two guys are veterans," Rivera said. "Good players, too. They know the game."

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