Closing it out while fighting an injuryBy
As the Stadium emptied out and the Yanks continued to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning, Mariano Rivera stopped by the ESPN stage to chat with Peter Gammons, Steve Berman and Dave Winfield about winning the World Series. Rivera is just three and a half weeks shy of his 40th birthday, and his face expressed elation at capturing a fifth ring.
He started out the interview by talking about the long wait, putting the ghosts of 2001 to bed and Andy Pettitte. Laughing at how Pettitte performed on three days’ rest, Rivera simply said with a smile, “That old goat is wonderful.”
I know Rivera won’t complain about his workload, but he had a very long season this year. Although his regular season innings total of 66.1 was a seven-year low, his 16 postseason innings are the most he has thrown since 2003. He was clearly feeling the effects of making 78 appearances this year. “I’m beat up, man,” he said to the ESPN crew.
And then he let slip a secret. “My side was killing me. I don’t know how I finished,” Rivera said. Yankee fans had a feeling something was wrong with Rivera during Game 4 when FOX caught him holding a heating pack to his right side, and last night, he confirmed what he called a “rib injury.”
Rivera labored last night. He needed 41 pitches to get five outs after using just 13 to get the previous five outs. His velocity seemed to be a tick lower than usual, and his control wasn’t as sharp as it generally is. When the game, the season, the World Series ended, though, Rivera was on the mound, and he could rest his rib. “We did not want to say about it,” he said. “Thank God we finished that today because I don’t think I could go another day with that.”
After the game, though, Rivera said he could keep going. He wants to pitch for another five years and might just be serious about it. “I’m serious,” he said to Chad Jennings. “I hope the organization does whatever it takes to bring me back.”
In today’s Times, Jack Curry writes glowingly of Rivera, and it’s no secret that Mariano is my favorite player. In fact, for every single playoff game this season, I wore my Rivera 42 2008 All Star Game jersey. Now, we hear he is injured, and he closed out the World Series while hurt. Yet, it doesn’t show. He takes the ball; he throws that cutter; he gets his outs. The legend and the greatness of Mo just continues to grow, and five years after he retires, I’ll be in Cooperstown with him, watching a great player earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.