The New York Yankees came to terms with future Hall of Famer and all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera on a one-year contract worth $10 million plus incentives on the day he turned 43-years-old. Enter Sandman will be played once again in the Bronx.
When Rivera dropped like a heap on the Kauffman Stadium warning track last May, many thought it may be the last time anyone would see him on the field as a player. Rivera, who had described last season as likely his last, couldn’t allow himself to go out that way. He allowed the proper time for healing and then went on a mission to get back to full strength where he could finish out his career walking off the mound versus being carried off stuck at 608 saves.
Rivera had been off to a very good start last season (five saves, 2.14 ERA in nine appearances covering 8.1 innings) before the batting practice mishap which probably played a part in his desire to return. He knows he is still effective; otherwise he may have used the opportunity to pack up the cleats for good. Instead he worked so hard over the summer that discussions arose over his availability in September or October. That didn’t quite pan out, but the veracity in which he tried to get back showed his desire and dedication.
“The fact that I didn’t want to go out like that,” Rivera said. “I felt like, I have something left, and [I should] give it a shot. Why not?”
The Yankees obviously saw Rivera’s performance before the injury and the tenacity of his rehabilitation as a very good sign. Once Rivera decided he wanted to return, and his interim replacement Rafael Soriano officially opted out, the age-defying closer jumped to the front of the ‘must sign’ list. The Yankees completed their rotation by signing Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to deals and turned their attention to Rivera.
Negotiations seemingly never got sticky between the two sides and the timing works out very well for the Yankees as Brian Cashman is set to take part in the Winter Meetings beginning Monday. Rivera’s signing took on new importance when word came that Russell Martin signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates (opinion coming separately). Cashman has his pitching priorities settled and now must work rounding out the rest of the roster including one of the more important spots on the field.
Rivera is believed to have enough time to be ready for Spring Training, but he expressed caution, reminding everyone that this injury is not a simple one to come back from. Getting it ready takes precedence over trying to move things along too quickly.
“I have a long time to go. I’m not rushing,” Rivera said. “I just have to make sure that my knee gets stronger. It does. It’s getting stronger and stronger every day. I’m happy with that. I just have to continue what I’m doing.”