- Posted: 2:39 PM, February 20, 2012
While the Yankees closer refused to come out and say, “I’m retiring at the end of the year,” Rivera made it clear knows what he’s going to do.
“I made my decision already,” the 42-year-old Rivera said in front of his locker at the Yankees’ spring training complex. “But I’m not ready to tell you yet.”
And since baseball’s top closer has shown no signs of slowing down, he insisted further success on the field would not impact his future, saying he made the call about two or three weeks ago.
“It doesn’t depend on anything, I always want to do my job,” said Rivera, who was expected to be a late arrival for pitchers and catchers, but ended up getting to Florida on time for the first day of workouts. “Even if I save 90 games; if they want to pay me as much money as they want to, anything [it won’t matter].”
When asked if there was anything that could make him change his mind, since he has repeatedly hinted that the end was in sight in the past only to later sign multi-year deals and pitch at a Hall-of-Fame level, Rivera didn’t waiver.
“This one is different,” Rivera said. “This is it.”
“This is something everybody goes through,” Rivera said. “It’s just a matter of time. How many times did I tell you guys this is my last year? Seven or eight years: ‘I’m not going to play after this year’ and then I sign a contract for two more years, three more years.’ But this one is different. This is it. This one is my decision.”
Later, he added, “It’s irrevocable.”
After passing Trevor Hoffman and breaking the major league saves record in 2011, he enters this year with 603 saves and was never better than he was a season ago, when he finished with 44 saves.
But it doesn’t sound like Rivera is going to wait for Father Time to make the call for him.
“Decisions like that always are hard,” Rivera said. “They involve what you do and what you’ve been doing for 22 years. Decisions like that are always difficult, but they have to be made.”
Rivera has made it clear that it gets more difficult for him to leave his family for spring training.
“It’s still hard,” Rivera said. “If you asked me yesterday if I was ready to go to spring training, I’d say no. But I’m here.”
Since he is still at the top of his game and said he likes playing, it may seem odd to hear him say he doesn’t want to stick around.
“There’s nothing you can pinpoint and say, ‘This is why,’” Rivera said. “I enjoy everything.”
Except, of course, from leaving his family in Westchester in February.
“It’s all the separation,” Rivera said. “It’s not about, ‘I don’t want to be here.’”
For this season, he’s here and for that, manager Joe Girardi remains thankful.
“I think he’s a great athlete,” Girardi said when describing Rivera’s longevity. “His mechanics are simple and he doesn’t beat himself. That’s one of the things that has helped him go so long. How much longer do I think he’s gonna play? I think at 32 if I asked everyone in this room if he would still be pitching at 42, I don’t think a lot of us would have said yes. It’s a blessing and the Yankees have been blessed.”
For how much longer? Only Rivera knows for sure.