TAMPA, Fla. -- Mariano Rivera wouldn't reveal the decision, but he did say it's been made.
And while playfully fencing with reporters Monday about not disclosing his plans beyond this season, the game's greatest closer sounded like a player ready to say goodbye.
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Rivera, 42, said his decision is "irrevocable" and won't depend on how he pitches this year. "Even if I save 90 games, even if they want to pay me as much money as they want, any team," he said he won't change his mind about the decision he's reached but isn't ready to disclose it.
When asked if his call, made in recent weeks, was a hard one, he said, "Definitely. Decisions like that always are hard. Always. Always when it involves what you do, involve what you have done for 22 years. Decisions like that are always hard and difficult. But at the same time, they have to be made."
Two members of what's been called the Core Four -- Andy Pettitte two offseasons ago and Jorge Posada this past one -- have retired, but the all-time leader in saves (603) said seeing his longtime friends and teammates leave didn't have an impact on whatever decision he made.
"There's a lot of things more than baseball I want to do, but it's something everybody goes through," said Rivera, who is coming off a season in which he had 44 saves and a 1.91 ERA. "They went through it, I have to go through it, Derek [Jeter] has to go through it and everybody else. It's just a matter of time."
Yes, it's become somewhat of an annual tradition -- which the closer acknowledged with a smile -- when he makes it sound as if wild horses dragged him to spring training.
"How many times have I told you guys that this is my last year? Maybe seven, eight years [back]," Rivera said. "I tell you guys, 'after this year, I'm not going to play no more,' and here it is, I play another two more years, sign another contract for three more years, then three more years . . . But this one is different. This one is, this is it. This is my decision. When I let you guys know what it is, you guys will know."
Rivera said his family -- which includes three sons, one in college -- already knows his decision. Next to know, he said, will be the Yankees. General manager Brian Cashman said Monday night that Rivera had not told him. "Whatever decision he's made,'' Cashman said, "he'll certainly be free to change his mind."
As for the public, which presumably will find out Rivera's verdict through the media, that date has not been determined.
"During the year," he said. "It can be tomorrow, it can be August, it can be July. I will let you know. I won't let you know now, but I know."
He said he's as "excited" about this season as he was about his first one. When he is done playing, he wants to stay in baseball, but nothing at the major-league level and certainly not managing.
"If I want to be a manager, I'd continue playing until I can't anymore," he said. "Because you have to do the same thing -- traveling and traveling and do all that stuff. No, I'm not managing. That's out of it. Something in the minor leagues. I think in the minor leagues, they need people to give them time."
Rivera, still considered among the best pure athletes on the team, for years has talked openly about wanting to spend some time in centerfield.
Does he think this would be the ideal year to finally do that?
"I want to talk to that man over there and see what's going on," Rivera laughed, gesturing toward manager Joe Girardi's office. "I would love to. I would love to. But it's not something I think of as a joke. Hopefully . But if not, I'm OK with that."