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Yankees Clubhouse Notes: Exit Sandman, Prologue

09/22/2013 1:08 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Mariano Rivera will retire at the end of the regular season after playing with the Yankees since 1995.(AP)
Make no mistake, the game today between the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants is crucial…no, dire for the home team. Every game matters isn't just a hashtag, because the team has no choice but to keep winning if they hope to erase what stands as a 3.5-game Wild Card deficit with just seven left on the schedule.

But for the fans, at least, the peripheral events of today are just as important, because it's goodbye to half of the "Core Four" that has defined the face of the franchise for the better part of the last two decades.

Today is Mariano Rivera's day, as the closer will get his farewell celebration from the Yankees prior to the game - and once that game starts, it will be the last time in the regular season (and possibly final time ever) Yankees fans see 41-year-old lefty Andy Pettitte toe the rubber that made him famous.

Pettitte will also retire following 2013, and it's only fitting that his final start at the Stadium comes on a day where they honor the back end of the most prolific win/save duo in MLB history. It will come immediately after the team salutes his relief counterpart, but Joe Girardi doesn't see that being a problem in terms of "too much excitement" for either pitcher.

"Our guys understand what we need to do, and if anything, I think it might provide a little bit more excitement. The good thing is that Mo will have a couple hours, but Andy gets so locked in once he starts his day that I don't think it will be an issue for either one of them," Girardi said. "Andy will start his routine and it will be just like any other day for him."

As for what will happen in that ceremony?

"I think it will be first class," the skipper said. "I think it will be great for everyone involved. The chance to be a part of this, I'm really looking forward to it."

You know Rivera is the All-Time leader with 652 saves (and counting), but what you may not know is that entering Sunday, 72 of Rivera's saves have come in conjunction with a Pettitte victory - 15 more than the second-place duo of Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley in Oakland - and Mo has already unofficially set a record for saves in his final MLB season with 44 (and counting) topping the Robb Nen/Jeff Shaw duo that currently inhabits that top spot with 43.

Just Mariano being Mariano, even if Mo himself might not know it.

"I think it means a lot to him, and I think as time goes on it will mean even more as he has a chance to digest everything that's happened this year," Girardi said. "What the Yankees have meant to them and what he's meant to them, he'll be able to reflect better as he gets away from this."

However, one thing Girardi wouldn't guarantee is that Rivera will even pitch today. Unlike All-Star skipper Jim Leyland, who guaranteed a Rivera appearance, Girardi wouldn't go that far.

"I don't feel necessarily a pressure right now to put him in the game because of what lies in front of us," Girardi said. "We might need him five of six days next week, and you'd hate to make it six of eight just because. That may change as the day goes on, but right now, I think you have to focus on what the ultimate goal is."

That goal is the playoffs, and with only a week's worth of work left to make up their deficit, the Yankees know they need to finish off the sweep of the Giants and begin to look ahead at a final week that includes one of the current Wild Card leaders in Tampa Bay and the team with the worst record in the AL in Houston.

All they'll need to do, according to Girardi, is follow their closer's lead.

"When I think about Mo, the numbers speak for themselves, but the way he went about his business is something you wish everyone could do. I would tell my kids this is an example of how you're supposed to go about your work. One thing I've always said about Mo is that he's extremely focused on that day, that week, that month, that year, and he's never shortchanged himself; he's always prepared and gives everything he has on a daily basis, and he doesn't let what happens in a game determine who he is as a person. The game is obviously very important to us, but it's not who you are, it's just what you do - and I think Mo reflects that better than anyone I've ever seen."

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