Mariano Rivera playfully flips the ball after throwing out the...

Mariano Rivera playfully flips the ball after throwing out the first pitch before Game 3 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. (Oct. 10, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

Mariano Rivera, who tore the ACL in his right knee while shagging fly balls in Kansas City on May 3, is close to jogging and running and hopes to be ready for spring training.

"I'm working towards that," the 42-year-old closer said Thursday. "Rehab's been coming good. It's hard, but it's feeling much better. You have to continue. I think we're in the process to start doing some jogging now, running, adding a lot more mobility to the legs, running sideways . . . and we'll see where that goes."

Rivera did jog out for the pregame introductions on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium -- to an enormous ovation -- and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He admitted it was difficult to be in the dugout, where he was again Thursday night, and not in the bullpen, where he has been a fixture the past 17 seasons. "It is tough. It is tough," he said. "But I'm conscious of it. I know I won't be able to play. I'm there for support."

The injured reliever did just that when he spoke to the struggling Alex Rodriguez after manager Joe Girardi lifted A-Rod for pinch hitter Raul Ibañez in the ninth inning of Wednesday night's ALDS Game 3. Ibañez tied it with a solo homer and won it with another blast in the 12th. "I told him [Rodriguez], we're gonna tie the game right here," Rivera said. "I always have confidence. I'm glad it worked. You have to do whatever you have to do. Everybody is part of the team."

Rivera, who holds the major-league career saves record with 608, made the remarks at a promotional event for Delta Air Lines at LaGuardia Airport, where he scanned boarding passes and greeted passengers on a flight to Detroit. One traveler shook his hand and confessed that he was a Blue Jays fan but wished him a speedy recovery. "I want to see you back next year," he said.

Rivera responded with a smile: "OK, I'll allow you on the plane."

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