The New York Yankees will go on without all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, who twisted his right knee in a freak injury during batting practice Thursday, tearing his ACL and meniscus. Rivera, who is 42 years old and hadn't been on the disabled list in nine years, likely will miss the rest of the season because of the recovery time involved — usually 6-9 months. He hinted in spring training that he would retire after the season and, as of now, he doesn't know if he will pitch again. Rivera was teary talking to reporters.
"It's torn," Rivera told reporters after the game. "I have to fix it."
Rivera was injured chasing a fly ball — shagging, a normally routine duty all pitchers are required to perform. After Rivera fell to the ground on the warning track clutching his knee, coach Mike Harkey called for help. Teammates were stone-faced as Rivera was driven off the field in a cart at Kauffman Stadium, where the Yankees started a four-game series with a 4-3 loss to the Royals. Rivera smiled and laughed while leaving, reportedly, but the news was bad after he was taken for an MRI.
Manager Joe Girardi said he wasn't second-guessing Rivera's shagging as he's performed the task frequently and consistently without incident. This, Girardi said, was the very definition of a freak injury.
"Shagging, I love to do," Rivera said. "If I could do it again, I'd do it again."
Derek Jeter, a teammate for nearly all of Rivera's career, didn't know what to think.
"He's going to be missed. There's no other way to put it. You can't replace him."
Though the Yankees have other capable relievers such as David Robertson, along with expensive ones such as Rafael Soriano, nobody in history has been better at the end of games than Rivera, who has 608 career saves, a 2.21 ERA and 12 All-Star appearances since his rookie season in 1995. And that doesn't count a nearly flawless postseason record (except for Game 7 of the World Series in 2001). If this really is the end of his career, it will rank as one of the cruelest goodbyes in baseball history.
He's the Sandman, the Godfather, Super Mariano, Mo. A giant of the game. The kind of player who, even though he plays for the hated (by many) Yankees, manages to elicit goodwill from pretty much everybody. As Jeter said, he cannot be replaced.
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