Mariano Rivera hopes to return in '12

Updated: July 17, 2012, 12:35 AM ET
By Matt Ehalt | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Injured New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said Monday that he hopes to pitch again this season.

Rivera has been on the disabled list since May 4 after tearing his right ACL while shagging balls prior to a game against Kansas City.

"That's my goal," Rivera said Monday on "The Michael Kay Show" on 98.7 FM ESPNNewYork. "I don't think about it because if it doesn't happen, I will be kind of like disappointed. I take it day by day. I'm working hard and doing what I do. ... That's the way I'm thinking, day by day and positive, definitely. Optimism, positive. Whatever the Lord will allow to happen, will happen."

Rivera, though, would not definitely say he will be returning in September for the pennant push.

"I don't know," Rivera said. "I can't answer that. I don't know. I want to, I want to be there now, but if there is any chance, only God knows."

While Rivera is optimistic about his chances, the Yankees don't seem as confident he will be return this year. The New York Post reported Yankees general manager Brian Cashman as saying: "in terms of 2012, he's out."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has also said the team doesn't believe Rivera will return this year.

Even Dr. Keith Pyne, who told the Post that Rivera is ahead of schedule in his recovery, said at the moment the closer would not be returning.

"Right now, he's shut down until next year," Pyne told the paper.

When Rivera initially suffered the injury he vowed to return next season under the assumption he would not be playing this year.

Rivera was not sure if a return this season, even if capped off by a World Series title, would make him change his mind and instead head into retirement. The closer had given some indications that 2012 perhaps could have been the final year of his career.

"I don't know, I'd have to think about it" Rivera said. "The few months I've had the injury, it's been different. I've seen the game and I've spent time with the family. I can't stop thinking about the game. It's hard. That would be a decision when it comes, I cannot regret it."

Rivera had surgery more than a month ago on his right knee and he said the rehab as been going quicker than expected. The surgery had been postponed for more than a month after a blood clot was found in his right calf.

A burning question surrounding the Yankees over the past decade has been how the team would fare over a long stretch without Rivera, who could be argued to be the most indispensible Yankee.

The team has responded positively thus far, and Rivera is not surprised with the team's success in his absence entering Monday's game against Toronto.

"I know the team is capable to do that," Rivera said. "In every area in the team we have someone who can come in and do the same job the other guy was doing, maybe even better. I always said the Yankees have done a tremendous job in putting a team together. It's just one of those times. We lost key players and the other guys picked it up and kept running with it, so that's wonderful."

One of those players is Rafael Soriano, who has thrived as the closer. Soriano has blown just one save this year in 23 attempts and has a dazzling 1.51 ERA spanning 35 2/3 innings. He had been solid when serving as the team's seventh and eighth-inning man over the past two years, but he's pitched his best since replacing Rivera as the team's closer.

"(He's) done a tremendous job with that and brought some stability," Rivera said. "I went down and they tried to put David Robertson in. Sori was the guy and he has the experience and he has ability, he's done it before. He has done a tremendous job in the closer's role. It's wonderful to do that. He's showing a great desire. Hopefully we keep doing the same."

Matt Ehalt is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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