Headed back to KC, Mo reflects on comeback
Having regained dominant form, closer returns to scene of injury
DENVER -- On Friday afternoon, closer Mariano Rivera will head to the outfield and do what he typically does when the Yankees take batting practice. He will shag fly balls.
He will be in Kansas City, and it was there on May 3, 2012, at Kauffman Stadium that Rivera tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while shagging flies during batting practice.
When told that Rivera is planning not to alter his routine and shag fly balls in Kansas City, manager Joe Girardi said, "He is? Maybe I'll cancel BP."
There will be no grand retrospective by Rivera, no dwelling on the agony he endured -- he called it the most painful injury he has ever experienced -- but there will be a moment of reflection.
"The only thing that will come back to me is just knowing that I got hurt there," Rivera said. "But I mean, I will enjoy it definitely because that moment and seeing where I am right now, that's what is gratifying. I'm thanking the Lord for me being here."
Rivera underwent surgery June 12 and has worked his way back to his esteemed ninth-inning self, entering Thursday 12-for-12 in save situations, a 2.03 ERA in 14 games and 12 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings.
"It's a new year with new experiences," he said. "And I'm healthy. I feel real good. There's nothing that restricts me to do whatever I want to do. I don't think about it. I just enjoy my game, enjoy what I do and have fun."
Rivera managed to smile and wave while being taken off the field on a cart. He was hoping the injury wasn't as serious as it turned out to be, but the "magnitude of the pain" told him it wasn't something minor. But he still acknowledged the fans with his upbeat gesture.
"What else you going to do besides cry?" he said. "You don't want to cry. I just want to make sure that people don't see me just going down in that way and have that in mind -- that will be the last thing they will see about Mariano. I don't want to see that, so that's why I was waving and saying, 'I'm OK,' and I was OK."
Rivera made his debut at Coors Field on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless ninth to seal the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Rockies. When Wilin Rosario flied out to end the game, Rivera did what he always does, which is to say nothing. The fist-pumping mound theatrics some closers relish when a victory has been secured have never been Rivera's way.
"When you respect the game of baseball, you respect everything that comes in baseball -- guys that are my peers, the other teams, you have to respect them," he said. "You're not bigger than the game. You're finished and the game will continue, so [if you] take [that] into consideration, you always will keep that line and stay humble. Because the game will always be bigger than you. Always. So it's nothing you can do that will be better than the game."
Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.