NEW YORK -- There was a huge sigh of relief among the New York Yankees on Thursday when results of an MRI exam on reliever Mariano Rivera's right arm showed only a mild muscle strain at the elbow but no structural damage.
Then, as if to celebrate, Rivera came out of the bullpen to get the final three outs in the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Joe Torre had hoped to stay away from his closer Thursday, even though Rivera came into his office before the game and told the manager he was ready to pitch. But Torre felt comfortable calling on Rivera for his 33rd save of the season.
"It's a matter of being as careful as we can, giving him time to warm up," Torre said. "It's a relief to know his elbow is in fine shape."
Rivera pitched an inning Wednesday to save the first half of a day-night doubleheader but was not available for the second game. Torre brought in Scott Proctor and the Yankees came within one strike of winning the game before Proctor walked Curtis Granderson on a 3-2 pitch and Craig Monroe followed with a three-run homer on the next pitch.
Torre said this has been a recurring problem with Rivera in the second half of seasons.
"Even though he's available, we've been trying to stay away from him," the manager said. "We're always concerned and we try to be as safe as we can. If I hand him the ball, he'd take it."
Rivera described his problem, which is below the elbow at the forearm.
"It's not pain, it's discomfort. It's not inflammation," he said. "You try to avoid going out back-to-back games but if you can't, you can't."
He said he would continue treating his arm with ice, heat and massages.