Mariano Rivera is back for one more season — at least.
The 43-year-old closer is returning for his 19th season with the Yankees after agreeing to a one-year, $10 million contract plus incentives and passing a physical on Friday. But Rivera wouldn’t say yesterday if this will be his final season before the clock to Cooperstown begins.
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“I’ll tell you in spring training,” he said with a smile. “Spring training is going to be the date.”
If Rivera decides his retirement is approaching, he said he would be interested in a Chipper Jones-style farewell tour to allow him and the fans to say a proper goodbye.
It’s an option he almost didn’t have after tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls in Kansas City in May and missing the rest of the season. Though Rivera isn’t 100 percent healthy yet, he said the rehab is going well and he plans to be ready for the start of the season.
“I’m doing everything that I have to do to make sure that everything’s OK and I’m satisfied,” said Rivera, who appeared yesterday in New Rochelle for Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia’s 25th anniversary, signing items for his foundation. “I’m happy with the results. I see no reason I shouldn’t be ready.”
Rivera even threw pitches off a mound recently but took it easy since it was for a commercial.
“I feel good now,” he said. “I wasn’t really throwing, but it felt good to tell the truth. I have a little more ways to go, definitely.”
After the injury, Rivera immediately vowed to return in 2013, but the 12-time All-Star contemplated retirement after the Yankees’ loss in the playoffs. Life without baseball was pretty good, but ending an illustrious career writhing on the outfield warning track was not a memory he wanted forever frozen in fans’ minds.
“The decision to come back wasn’t easy,” he said. “Once you see the other side, I had almost the whole season to see things and enjoy my family and do all the things I didn’t do for 22 years. [But,] I’m a baseball player. The way I finished the season wasn’t the way I wanted to finish, so that’s why I said I’m going to come back.”
Before the injury, Rivera had a 2.16 ERA in nine games, after posting a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves in 2011. He said another stellar season is an expectation, not a hope.
“Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this,” Rivera said. “I always tell you guys I’m optimistic, I’m thinking positive. Helping my team win is my goal. I have to do everything within my power to be there and to do that. There are challenges, but I’m up to the challenge.”