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Joe Girardi: Mariano Rivera "absolutely" could play center field in Houston

09/26/2013 6:31 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Joe Girardi was open to the idea of Mariano Rivera playing center field this weekend in Houston.(AP)
He's the greatest closer of all-time, but Mariano Rivera has long talked about wanting to play center field for the Yankees at some point in his Major League career.

With the Yankees out of postseason contention, Joe Girardi intimated that he may just get his wish this weekend in Houston -- but not before then.

"Absolutely," Girardi said when asked if he's considered the thought, "but not here (in Yankee Stadium), because it's meaningful for Tampa."

And if given that chance, Rivera says he'll leave the feasibility up to his physical condition, but he certainly won't do it just because.

"The one thing I can tell you is that if I can do it physically, I will, and if I cannot do it, I will not make a fool of myself there," Rivera said. "I'm a professional, and this is not a joke for me (because) I respect the game. I put in the request a long time ago, and now my knees are not the same, so we'll see what happens - but if I can't do it, that's fine with me."

So, then, how could Rivera's first career appearance somewhere other than the mound actually come about?

"I don't know how I would do it; it's probably something I'd have to talk to him about," Girardi said. "In my mind, thinking he's going to want to pitch, it's a situation where I might bring him in in the eighth to play center field and then close him out in the ninth if we have that opportunity."

Because of the hill leading up to the wall, Minute Maid Park has perhaps one of the hardest centerfields to play in all of baseball, and Girardi said he would definitely take that into consideration, but he's not worried about Mo's athleticism being a factor.

"Well, I'm going to try to warn him about it, and hopefully we don't get any balls up on that hill," he joked, before adding that "I've seen Andy Pettitte hit a ball up on that hill and get thrown out at third, (so if Mo has to chase a ball up there), go ahead and go get it and see if he can throw 'em out."

One thing Girardi and Rivera did say for sure is that even though Thursday will mark Mo's last appearance in Yankee Stadium -- and the skipper intimated it's almost a certainty he would pitch -- it won't be Rivera's last appearance, period.

"I'm under the assumption that he would (want to pitch in Houston) and my guess is that if there's a save opportunity, he's going to want to gobble it up," Girardi said, with Rivera confirming that by saying that "if the opportunity arises, I'll pitch in Houston."

Before then, however, comes one last night in the Bronx, and Rivera wasn't sure just how emotional that sendoff would be.

"I've been so overwhelmed I haven't thought about it, but we'll see what happens when I walk out there," Rivera said. "(The game being sold out) means a lot to me. The fans have been amazing, and I definitely appreciate them."

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