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Mariano Rivera has only good things to say about Joe Girardi

Mariano Rivera makes his way to the field

Mariano Rivera makes his way to the field to hand out the reliever of the year award before Game 4 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

HOUSTON — It has been a few years since Mariano Rivera last played for Joe Girardi, but the closer said he didn’t see any of the issues that ultimately cost Girardi his job as manager of the Yankees.

“To describe playing for Joe, it was fun,” said Rivera, who played for Girardi from 2008 until his retirement after the 2013 season. “A lot of respect [for him]. He treated you like a person and respected you. I treated him as my friend but also my manager. I was proud to work for him for so many years. It was fun.”

Rivera, who was Girardi’s teammate and batterymate from 1996-99, was in Houston for the presentation of MLB’s Reliever of the Year Awards. Rivera and Trevor Hoffman presented the AL and NL awards, which went to Craig Kimbrel of the Red Sox and Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers before Saturday night’s Game 4 of the World Series.

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Rivera, the all-time leader in saves with 652, was stopped after the ceremony by a few New York-based reporters to talk about his former manager. Girardi’s contract expires Tuesday, and the Yankees announced on Thursday that they will not bring him back after 10 years in which he compiled a 910-710 record and won the 2009 World Series.

“I was surprised, definitely I was surprised,” Rivera said. “Joe did a great job managing the team for so many years and especially this year. But it’s a business.”

Rivera said Girardi’s intensity, something insiders have said concerned general manager Brian Cashman in terms of it wearing on the clubhouse, particularly younger players, wasn’t an issue.

Of course, it should be pointed out that when Rivera played for Girardi, the roster was predominantly composed of veterans. There were many more young players on the remade 2017 roster.

“Joe was fair to everybody, to the youngsters and obviously to the veterans,” Rivera said. “The veterans will be the ones that will help you guide all those youngsters. That’s the reason why sometimes managers have a greater relationship with the older players than the youngsters. That doesn’t mean that Joe put the youngsters to the side. No, he always was there for them. I was witness of that.

“All I can say is I wish the best to Joe, my friend, my manager, my teammate,” he said. “But I always will be a Yankee and I know the Yankees will try to get the best manager that is going to bring a championship back home. It’s a business.”

Rivera said he can see Girardi managing again.

“I don’t see why not,” he said. “It’s up to him. He will do what is best for him and his family. I know he loves the game of baseball, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes somewhere else. But if he doesn’t, I respect his decision. I think he’ll be fine either or.”

Would Rivera throw his hat in the ring?

He laughed.

“No,” he said. “I was thinking about it but, um, no.”

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