The news from the New York Yankees this winter has been very disappointing. Alex Rodriguez is not expected to return to action until July or August after undergoing surgery. Curtis Granderson, injured during Spring Training, is not expected to return until early May after missing 10 weeks of spring preparation. Last week, Mark Teixeira, while swinging the bat preparing for his place on Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC), suffered a wrist injury that will force him to miss 8-10 weeks.
In addition to the above listed regulars who will start the 2013 season on the disabled list, Yankee captain Derek Jeter and ace pitcher CC Sabathia, returning from surgery, have yet to see action this spring.
Record holding Mariano Rivera, with 608 saves during his years in the majors, was scheduled to return to the mound on Saturday, March 9 after suffering a torn ACL during pregame practice in May 2012. The focus changed after the Yankees hastily called a 10 am press conference for that same morning.
The conference, as was expected, gave Rivera the opportunity to announce his retirement from baseball will begin after the conclusion of the 2013 season. He made the point to emphasize this was not a time of sadness, but one of celebrating. “I’m happy I was able to play for so many years,” remarked Rivera near the end of the press conference.
Rivera was joined at the dais by his wife, Clara, and two of his three sons. Also in the room were all of his Yankee teammates and members of the organization’s management.
The humble and religiously devout ballplayer began his litany of thanks by expressing gratitude to “my lord and savior Jesus Christ.” He thanked his teammates and members of the organization. Of Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, he said, “We’re more than teammates, like brothers.” He repeatedly gave thanks for everything he has been given.”
He explained that had he not been seriously injured last season, he would have retired after the 2012 season, “I didn’t want to leave like that. If I had finished the season last year, I would have retired.”
Rivera will not consider returning to action after this season ends, “There’s nothing left. I did everything.” He will most miss “being on the field with his teammates.” But he spoke of his future in baseball, “After this season, you won’t see me on the field other than doing something else than playing. I definitely would be involved in the game in some way, working with minor leaguers.”
He recognized his responsibility of still wearing #42, “Being the last player to wear #42 is a privilege. I tried to do my best to wear #42 with class in honor of Mr. Jackie Robinson.”
Rivera’s baseball life began on February 17, 1990, when the 20 year-old native of Panama signed a contract with the New York Yankees as a non-drafted free agent.
The decision for Rivera to be a reliever was not made until he reached the majors. He started 67 of his 102 minor league games. In his first year with the Yankees, he started in 10 of his 19 appearances and did not receive a save opportunity.
Rivera’s record in more than 1,000 games as a Yankee ranks him as one of baseball’s best. His work in the postseason is what separates him from the rest. He has 42 postseason saves, an 8-1 mark and a miniscule ERA of 0.71 in 96 postseason contests.
Rivera has earned many honors during his long, illustrious, and respected career. He was selected as ALCS MVP in 2003 and World Series MVP in 1999.He is the only pitcher in the big leagues who has a WHIP (walks and hits per inning) under 1.0 for the 20th and 21st centuries, His amazing number is 0.998. The great closer will have one more season to add to his previous accomplishments before concluding an athletic career that will earn him election to the Baseball Hall of Fame five y ears after his retirement.
The 2013 MLB season will be the opportunity for Rivera to make a well-deserved farewell tour as future Hall of Famer Larry “Chipper” Jones of the Braves did last year. Although, he looks forward to saying good-bye to the fans in every ballpark, he said he was not ready for the adulation. He joked, “Maybe, I’ll call him [Chipper] and find out how it was.”
Later in that same day, in his first appearance of the spring, Rivera retired all three Braves batters he faced, two by strikeout. Yankees fans are hopeful that his first appearance in 2013 will be representative of his final year in baseball.