Though Mariano Rivera is turning 43 years old in November and missed a majority of the season with a torn ACL, he's been expected to return to the New York Yankees bullpen next season. However, the future Hall of Famer is now having second thoughts about continuing his career, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
While Rivera decides whether he will return, Yankees temporary closer Rafael Soriano will most likely opt out of his contract and look for a long term deal on the free agent market. The Yankees could still attempt to resign Soriano, but Rivera's decision will affect how much money the Yankees will have to spend. At this point, even Yankees manager Joe Girardi is unsure of how the situation will play out.
"From watching how he rehabbed and everything that he was going through, picked up a baseball sooner than he was supposed to and got his hand smacked a little bit, that would tell me that Mo probably wants to play," said Girardi. "But in saying that, it's a decision that I think he'll sit down with his family, evaluate where he is maybe a little bit later in this process and how he feels and how his arm feels to feel like you think you can compete at the same level he's always competed at. But I don't think that you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you think that you possibly have some interest in coming back."
Rivera vowed that he would be back for another season in early May when it was announced that the injury had ended his season. It was clear at that moment, that Mo did not want his legendary career to end that way. He wanted to leave on his own terms, in his own way.
However, with a Major League record of 608 career saves and five World Series rings, Rivera is already considered the greatest closer of all-time and has nothing left to prove or accomplish. If he can not pitch at a high level as he's done throughout his career, returning and struggling on the mound could hurt his legacy.
New York's goal of lowering the team's payroll to $189 million by 2014 could also play a part in Rivera's return to the Bronx. Rivera would not leave the Yankees to join another team, but the Yankees are tightening their budget and might not be able to offer a contract that matches the $15 million he made in 2012. It might be easier for Rivera to walk away from baseball if there's not much money on the table.
Expect Mo to continue rehabbing and focusing on a comeback, until he reaches a point where he is healthy enough to decide if he can still be effective as a closer. If he still feels like he has "it", you can bet you will see Mariano Rivera in closing out games in pinstripes next season.
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