For the great Rivera, hoping it doesn't end like tihs

05/04/2012 9:36 AM ET
By Jack Curry / Special to

A despondent Mariano Rivera faces an uncertain future after suffering a torn ACL.(AP)

Spotting Mariano Rivera during batting practice was never a chore. A Yankee hitter would blast a shot into the outfield gaps and a blur would bolt across the grass to grab it. That blur was Rivera, who shagged fly balls as part of his pregame routine. It was easy to watch Rivera glide around the outfield.

On a sobering Thursday in Kansas City, it wasn’t easy to watch Rivera in the outfield. It was awful. Awful to watch Rivera land awkwardly after leaping for a ball near the left field warning track, awful to see his face plastered with pain and awful to see him grabbing his damaged right knee. Rivera, the mightiest of closers, looked helpless.

A few hours later, a somber Rivera revealed that he had torn the ACL and meniscus in his knee, a devastating injury. As difficult as it was to watch the replays of Rivera injuring himself, watching his postgame news conference was also wrenching. Rivera’s eyes were moist when he began answering the kind of questions he never wanted to address, a sudden batch of questions about his baseball mortality.

When Rivera was asked if he thought he would ever pitch again, he rubbed his lips with his left hand, blinked away the tears, lifted his eyebrows and grasped for words.

“At this point, I don’t know,” Rivera said. “We have to face this first.”

Journalists are taught to be unbiased. You can’t cover a story ethically and accurately if you let personal feelings influence you. But, with Rivera, that is difficult for me to do in this instance. Rivera is the most gentlemanly player I have covered in more than 20 years around the Yankees. He is classy, polite and genuine, the kind of person who asks you about your life and your family, and really absorbs the responses. Rivera, who is the best at what he does on the mound, might actually be better at what he does off the mound.

So when Rivera’s injury was disclosed, I felt queasy for him and also hoped that he wouldn’t be forced to end his amazing career in such an aching fashion. As a closer, Rivera has almost always been in control while pursuing the final three outs. He is the man who has controlled so much of what happened with the Yankees as they have won five titles since 1996. Now Rivera isn’t in control in 2012 because he can’t pitch. The future Hall of Famer is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Knowing how competitive Rivera is and how excited he was about what was probably going to be his final season, I hope this isn’t the end. If the 42-year old Rivera decides to take on the extensive rehab process and returns to the Yankees, he would decide how his career ends. He would be back in control. That’s the way I would like to see him finish his incredible journey.


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