Yankees' Mariano Rivera says 2013 season will be his last
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Of course, there's always a chance that between now and season's end, Mariano Rivera will change his mind.
But the Yankees' iconic closer sure sounded like a player who won't be turning back.
"The tank is almost empty,'' the 43-year-old Rivera said Saturday morning in a news conference at Steinbrenner Field, where later that day he would make his 2013 spring training debut -- pitching a perfect inning, naturally. "It's official now. After this year, I will be retired.''
The news conference for Rivera -- who was signed by the Yankees for $3,000 in 1990 from the Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito and, armed with a lethal cutter, became baseball's all-time leader in saves (608) -- went like so many of his ninth innings: efficient, with minimal drama and emotion.
"That was wonderful, that was great that Joe [Girardi] allowed all the guys to be there,'' Rivera said. "I was choked up a little bit there. Almost.''
Rivera, without notes, opened with a statement thanking general manager Brian Cashman -- who later called the closer "irreplaceable'' -- for ignoring team policy and extending his contract an extra two years.
Turning serious, Rivera -- sitting on the dais with his wife, Clara, and two of their three sons, Jaziel and Jafet -- then got to the point.
"It's not too easy when you come to a decision like this,'' Rivera said, later adding, "I have just a few bullets left and I'm going to use them well this year.''
Rivera came to the same determination in spring training last year and planned to retire after the 2012 season. But when he tore his right ACL while shagging fly balls in Kansas City on May 3, he couldn't let a brilliant career end on the disabled list.
"Definitely, if I would have finished the season last year, I would have retired last year, definitely,'' Rivera said. "But I didn't want to leave like that. I felt like I wanted to give everything, and that I still had something left.''
Rivera enters this season with a career 2.21 ERA and 0.998 WHIP. In 1,2192/3 innings, he has 1,119 strikeouts and 277 walks. Rivera led the American League in saves three times and saved at least 40 games eight times. In addition to his five World Series championships, he finished in the top three for the Cy Young Award four times and was selected to the All-Star Game 12 times in 18 years.
But if his regular-season statistics are impressive, his postseason marks are all but untouchable. Among them: 42 saves, including 11 in the World Series, and a 0.70 ERA in 96 postseason games.
"You'll never see that again,'' Cashman said, shaking his head. "You'll never see that again.''
Rivera came to spring training already having made his decision -- an irrevocable one but one that only a handful in the organization, including teammates, knew about. Jeter and Pettitte were two of them.
"I'm happy for him,'' Jeter said. "I'm happy that he's made this decision and it's the best one for him and his family.''
Rivera, who called it an "honor and privilege'' to be the last major-leaguer to wear No. 42 -- retired for Jackie Robinson -- said he will not be out of the game for long.
"I'd love to work with the minor-leaguers,'' Rivera said. "It's a passion that I have. Giving back to the organization or the game of baseball, giving the knowledge and experience I have, I'd like to work with those kids. The big leagues, they're a bunch of old men who know everything. I want to deal with the minor-leaguers.''
How does he hope his final game will go? Rivera gave an unsurprising answer.
"The last game, I hope, will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series,'' Rivera said. "Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition.''
Rivera is well aware of athletes who have called it quits only to return -- at one point, he poked fun at Pettitte -- but said he won't be one of them, even though Jeter was disbelieving when informed of his decision.
"He said I've been retiring for the last 10 years and I might play another five years,'' Rivera said with a smile. "But no, I won't. This is it.''