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Rivera tears ACL while shagging fly balls

In this image taken from video, Yankees pitcher

In this image taken from video, Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, center, grimaces after twisting his right knee shagging fly balls during batting practice. (May 3, 2012) Credit: AP Photo/YES Network

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The visitors' clubhouse here easily could have been mistaken for that of a team that had lost a heartbreaker in the seventh game of the World Series.

Players spoke in hushed, somber tones, with the most subdued of all belonging to the last man who talked -- the one who had torn his right ACL a few hours earlier.

"At this point, I don't know," an emotional Mariano Rivera said, voice cracking, when asked if he'll pitch again. "I don't know. We have to face this first . . . I just want to think and pray a little bit before I make a decision."

The devastating injury suffered by the 42-year-old closer occurred a little more than an hour before the first pitch of the Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Royals.

Rivera was in the outfield shagging fly balls, something he's done throughout a career that rates among the best in the sport's history. As he went back toward the centerfield wall on a ball hit by new teammate Jayson Nix, the all-time leader in saves crumpled to the ground, crying out in pain.

A television camera caught Alex Rodriguez, who was behind the batting cage, saying "Oh my God" twice upon seeing the pitcher go down. Manager Joe Girardi headed out toward the centerfield wall at a fast jog.

Rivera soon was surrounded by teammates and staff, loaded on a cart and driven off the field.

"I never will second-guess or question the Lord," Rivera said. "It happened for a reason and you just have to deal with it."

Rivera didn't second-guess shagging fly balls -- he's done it his whole career and looked like a natural outfielder doing it -- but felt awful. "You let the team down," he said.

His manager and teammates didn't see it that way. They looked at it as a horrible freak accident by a player considered irreplaceable, both in performance and clubhouse leadership.

"That's terrible," Mark Teixeira said. "It's just terrible . . . I've always argued he's the best pitcher of all time, not just best relief pitcher but pitcher of all time."

"It's bad. There's no other way to put it,'' Derek Jeter said. "It's just one of those freak things. That one hurts . . . He's going to be missed. There's no other way to put it. You don't replace him. Someone else can do his job, but you can't really replace him.''

Setup man David Robertson, who figures to be Rivera's replacement as the closer, saw him go down on the warning track and later said, "It was a miserable feeling to see it . . . It's the worst news we could have gotten.''

Girardi initially said Rivera would fly back to New York but the pitcher said his choice was to stay in Kansas City.

"I want to stay with the team," he said. "I just want to be here for the guys. Make sure the guys are OK. It's not an easy situation, but we've been through this before and we're being tested one more time."

Said Girardi: "It's not season over. We have a lot of games left.''

Since blowing a save in the season opener against the Rays, Rivera has tossed eight scoreless innings in eight appearances, going 5-for-5 in save opportunities to give him 608 for his career.

He has been remarkably durable in his career, spending time on the disabled list only five times, the last time March 30-April 29, 2003, with a strained right groin. The longest stretch was Aug. 19-Sept. 21, 2002, with a strained right shoulder.

Now the attention will shift to Robertson, 27, who has three career saves. He excelled as Rivera's setup man in 2011, holding the opposition scoreless in 63 of his 70 appearances and recording a 1.08 ERA with one save. Robertson is unscored upon in 11 appearances in 2012.

Rivera -- who has recorded 39, 44, 33 and 44 saves the last four seasons with corresponding ERAs of 1.40, 1.76, 1.80 and 1.91 -- dropped several hints during spring training that this might be his final year.

In his first day in camp, Rivera said he'd made a final decision regarding his future, one he wasn't ready to disclose. "Even if I save 90 games, even if they want to pay me as much money as they want,'' his mind wouldn't change, he said that day.


Yankees loseWith the Yankees trailing 4-3, Jeter led off the ninth against Jonathan Broxton with his fourth hit and Curtis Granderson walked. But Teixeira -- who already had an RBI double and a sacrifice fly -- hit into a 4-6-3 double play and third baseman Mike Moustakas barehanded Rodriguez's swinging bunt and threw him out to end the game.

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