A few hours after Mariano Rivera crumpled in pain on the warning track, as Alex Rodriguez looked on from behind the batting cage repeating the words “Oh, my God” over and over again, Joe Girardi confirmed everyone’s worst fears: After undergoing an MRI in Kansas City, Rivera was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee. He’ll be getting a second opinion in New York, but should the re-evaluation confirm the tear, Rivera’s season will undoubtedly be over. And perhaps even his career as well.
There will be a lot of hyperbole from journalists, fans, and the sports media over the next few weeks about Mariano’s career, what he’s meant to the Yankees all these years, and if the team will be able to survive this injury. Some of it will be dramatic, and some of it will be warranted. Mariano, after all, has been nothing short of indispensable for the Yankees. He’s been remarkably durable over his 18-year career (last going on the disabled list in 2003), and he fooled us into thinking he was invincible.
An emotional Rivera told reporters after the game he’s not certain he will pitch again, saying:
"“At this point I don’t know, I don’t know, we have to face this first. It all depends how the rehab is going to happen. From there, we’ll see.”"
At the start of spring training, Rivera said he had decided whether or not he’d retire at the end of the season, and nothing could change his mind. He never publicly or officially declared he would retire, but most everyone could read between the lines. But ending his prolific career on the disabled list wouldn’t be right. So maybe this is something that could change his mind. It’s too soon to be asking those questions of him, what with a surgery and long rehabilitation ahead of him, but perhaps he’ll pitch another year if he wants to go out on his own terms.
If you feel like being positive about this instead of despondent (I’m leaning toward the latter), it’s good to remember that the bullpen is one of the strengths of this team. The closing duties will go to either Rafael Soriano, who has some experience in that role from his time with the Rays, or David Robertson. Girardi said he’d sleep on it, and I’m of the opinion that he can’t really go wrong with either one. Neither compares to Rivera, but I’m confident both are capable of handling the job.
I’m not breaking any news when I say that it’s completely devastating to lose Mo in the bullpen, and more than a little depressing to think it could be the last time we’ve seen him throw his infamous cutter. He’s the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history. He deserves a better ending than this.