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Mariano Rivera: 'I will be back'

Mariano Rivera delivers a pitch against the Mets.

Mariano Rivera delivers a pitch against the Mets. (June 20, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Mariano Rivera isn't going anywhere. Less than 24 hours after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, Rivera said he plans to pitch next year.

"I'm coming back,'' he said Friday before the Yankees beat the Royals, 6-2, behind two-run homers by Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter and eight strong innings from CC Sabathia. "Write it down in big letters. I'm not going down like this. God willing, if he gives me the strength, I'm coming back.''

Rivera, emotional and wiping away tears late Thursday night after receiving the diagnosis, was in far better spirits Friday, talking for a little more than 16 minutes to a large group of reporters and at times breaking up the group with pithy one-liners.

The 42-year-old closer said he reached the decision in his hotel room late Thursday.

"I can't go down like this,'' he said. "If it takes two, three, four, five, seven months, whatever it takes . . . You don't go out like this. Not with an injury like that.''

Rivera said he talked Friday morning with Dr. David Altchek, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery and the Mets' medical director. Altchek repaired the AC joint in Rivera's right shoulder after the 2008 season.

"He mentioned about three, four, five months, depends how I can take it," Rivera said of his rehab. "He said I'm a quick healer. So that's good. Miracles happen. Miracles happen, guys."

Rivera will fly home Saturday and meet with team doctors Monday. His surgery date has not yet been determined.

Dr. James Gladstone, the co-chief of sports medicine and associate professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, characterized Rivera's injury as "not one you come back from quickly." But Rivera's age, Gladstone said, isn't something that is an added obstacle.

"It's been my experience there isn't really a difference in how they recover," he said of how a 42-year-old compares with a 22-year-old. "Particularly in his case, certainly the better conditioned you are, the quicker you recover."

Word that Rivera will be back spread around the clubhouse after he talked to reporters. The news, obviously, went over well.

"Everyone's happy to hear that," said Jeter, who predicted Thursday night that Rivera would not call it quits.

"Super, super, super news,'' Alex Rodriguez said. "Mo's all about endings. I'm sure he wanted to end things the right way.''

Rivera said he planned to talk to the team before Friday night's game. After striking out the side to end the Yankees' victory, David Robertson said, "He just said, don't feel sorry for me, I'm going to come back. He was basically saying we're a good team and injuries happen, let's turn it around, get stronger and grow from it."

Even during spring training, when Rivera hinted that this season would be his last, Joe Girardi said he always thought he would be back in 2013.

"I just kind of had a feeling in talking to him [Thursday] night that it wasn't the way he wanted to go out," Girardi said. "Mo's a guy that wants to do things on his own terms and wants to determine when he's done. And I don't think he's the kind of guy that would ever want to say 'I'm done because of an injury.' "

Rivera, who suffered the injury while shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice Thursday, said that when he does return, he will continue that routine.

"Oh, believe it," he said. "That's what I love to do. I won't hesitate to do it again."

General manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he has no plans to prohibit Rivera or anyone else from shagging flies.

"All pitchers are doing it from every level,'' Cashman said. "Pitchers shouldn't be doing home run-robbing catches, but shagging fly balls? It's been going on forever. It's nothing I plan on changing. It's just a freak accident.''

Rivera's regret, he said, was that "I let my teammates down." But that's something no other Yankee felt.

Rivera is in the final year of a two-year contract and said he won't consider playing elsewhere. Will the Yankees want him back?

"They will want the old goat," he said to laughter. "They will want the old goat."

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