Mariano returns to Wounded Knee

A helpless Mariano Rivera in Kansas City last May -- still a heartbreaking sight for Yankees fans. AP Photo/YES Network

KANSAS CITY -- There is no chalk outline of Mariano Rivera's body on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium. No yellow police tape outlines the site where the Yankees' incomparable closer crumpled to the turf last May 3, having torn the ACL in his right knee while shagging batting practice flies.

And to Rivera, there is no need to commemorate the scene of the injury that robbed him of much of the 2012 season, nor any reason to fear returning to it.

In fact, when the Yankees took batting practice before Friday night's game against the Royals, he was out there shagging once again, very near the spot where he writhed in pain before being carted off the field.

[UPDATE, 7:01 p.m.: Before the Yankees went out for batting practice, someone -- OK, it was bullpen coach Mike Harkey -- went out and drew a chalk outline of a body at the precise spot where Rivera fell, and above it, on the outfield wall, attached a hand-lettered sign that read "No Mo Zone." Rivera got a good laugh out of it when the sign was pointed out to him while he stretched behind the batting cage, and the first thing he did was jog out to the spot and inspect Harkey's handiwork. Then, he went back to doing what he always does before games -- shagging batting practice fly balls.]

"Nothing’s going to change," he said beforehand. "I’m going to do what I love to do. I might go to the same spot where I landed, where I was. But I’m going to enjoy it. There's nothing to regret. I'm healthy again. Remembering that moment, and seeing where I am right now, it’s gratifying. It’s good to me."

Rivera said his return to Kansas City held no real significance for him other than to mark the time that has passed between that day, the surgery that followed five weeks later, and his return to action this season, in which he has started out with 13 saves in 13 opportunities.

"It could have happened in New York, it could have happened anywhere else," Rivera said. "So it happened in Kansas City. We’re going to play Kansas City. I’m just going to have the same fun that I’ve been having, the same fun that I always have. That ain’t going to put me down or have me say I don’t want to be here. No. I want to be there. I want to be there. I want to enjoy it. I want to see the doctor who took me to the hospital and say thank you. I want that.''

Rivera has certainly enjoyed this, his farewell season, in his own unique way -- taking time to meet the vendors and stadium workers at each road ballpark in private meet-and-greets, and collecting farewell gifts from every opposing team along the way.

The last image the fans in Kansas City had of Mo was of him smiling and waving to the crowd as he was carted off, although, he says now, the knee injury -- he suffered a torn medial meniscus as well -- was the most painful he had ever experienced in his baseball career.

"I was hoping it wasn’t that bad, but knowing the game, and knowing the magnitude of the pain that I felt, I knew it wasn’t something light," he said. "But what else you going to do, cry? I just wanted to make sure people don’t see me going down that way. Having that in mind, that that would be the last thing they see about Mariano."

The Kauffman Stadium crowd will get another look at Mariano Rivera, and not riding off in a cart. They might get to see him in a game, doing what he does better than it has ever been done. But even if he never gets into any of the three games here, early arrivals will get to see Rivera doing something he loves to do almost as much as he loves to pitch.

"We will be in center field, me and David Robertson, and we will shag flies like we always do," Rivera said. "And we will laugh about this. We will. I guarantee it."