Whatever odds that consummate Yankees relief specialist Mariano Rivera could return from knee surgery this season appeared thoroughly dashed by Rivera's revelation Wednesday that doctors had discovered a blood clot in his right calf.
At first kidding that the "complications" cited to the New York Post this week by his agent, Fernando Cuza, meant that "I'm just getting old," Rivera, 42, reported that he had complained, during a Monday examination, of coldness and soreness in the calf, leading to the blood clot diagnosis.
He immediately was given blood-thinning medication, which he will take until 24 hours before undergoing knee surgery at a date to be determined, and was kept at New York Presbyterian Hospital overnight for further tests.
"I'm OK," he said. "I believe [the clot] is taken care of already."
But a specialist in sports injuries, Dr. Tony Wanich of the Montefiore Medical Center, said in a telephone interview that while blood clots are "easily treated and won't affect surgery or the outcome of surgery," he expected Rivera's operation will be put off for "at least six weeks. Most blood clots take at least six weeks to treat, and I wouldn't want to operate on somebody who has blood clots.
"The real danger is that a blood clot can travel to your lungs, and that's life threatening," Wanich said. "But, with treatment, once it's gone, it's gone."
Rivera tore a ligament and damaged cartilage in his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City last Thursday and said Wednesday he "didn't even ask" what may have caused the clot.
Wanich, an orthopedic surgeon who has worked with several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, said it was likely that swelling from the knee injury and resulting circulatory issues triggered by Rivera's flight from Kansas City "predisposed" Rivera to developing the clot.
"I was scared," Rivera said. "I never hear good things about blood clots. But I take it, like, 'OK, what do we have to do?' "
He repeated that he is determined to pitch again -- "because I don't want to leave [baseball] the way it happened" -- though he would not put a timetable on his return.
"I don't want to go that far," he said. "I just want to take it day-by-day. I don't want to put a time frame in my mind because, if it doesn't happen, I'm going to be disappointed."
He claimed that, despite spring-training hints that this could be his last season, he always was "leaning toward coming back" in 2013. "The traveling -- I hate it," he said. "The playing -- I love it. It will be hard to put it down and walk away."
Before Rivera's 25-minute session with reporters, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "I really believe if Mo wants to continue to play, he'll play . . . I look forward to seeing him back in a uniform."
Meanwhile, Rivera said he watched Tuesday night's game from his couch at home, when his understudy, David Robertson, loaded the bases before wriggling out of trouble in the ninth inning to preserve a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay. "Robby did a good job," Rivera said, "but I sweat."
He said he will be around the clubhouse at times the rest of the season to "pull for the guys" and help his teammates "any way I can; I don't think it will be much. But, for the first time in my life, I think I'm going to be more selfish" and concentrate on the rehabilitation.