Mariano Rivera re-signs with Yanks

Updated: November 30, 2012, 8:13 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

Cue Metallica. The Sandman will be re-entering for one Mo season.

The New York Yankees and Mariano Rivera finalized a one-year deal Friday evening, reportedly worth a guaranteed $10 million with incentives that could drive his paycheck close to the $15 million he was paid last year if, at 43 years old, he can stay healthy all season.

Rivera made just nine appearances in 2012, his season ending with him writhing on the warning track in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on May 3, the ACL in his right knee torn while shagging batting practice flies. He left the field on a cart.

"Like I've been saying, I didn't want to go out like that," Rivera said in a statement released by the team. "I didn't want that to be the last image."

To make room for Rivera on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated Jayson Nix for assignment.

In Rivera's absence last season, Rafael Soriano stepped in after an abortive attempt at closing by David Robertson, and saved 42 games in 46 opportunities.

But Soriano opted out of the final year of his contract and is now a free agent, leaving the Yankees with one option: The man who has saved more games (608) than any closer in the history of baseball and a pitcher widely considered to be the best at his job in the history of the game.

Likewise, Rivera had made it clear that he had no interest in pitching for any other team but the Yankees, for whom he has pitched his entire 17-year major league career.

So it was hardly surprising that the two sides got together, and fairly quickly, on what is likely to be Rivera's final contract. Last spring training, he had dropped broad hints that 2012 would be his final season, but the day after his injury, he stated definitively that he would attempt a comeback for 2013.

"But it wasn't an easy decision because there's more than just baseball with me," Rivera said. "I have to consider my family and the church, too. But I feel like we have a great group of guys and a team that can compete for a championship. I'm not just coming back to play. I'm coming back to win."

Rivera made just nine appearances before his injury last season. He was 1-1 with five saves -- he had a blown save on Opening Day and was perfect thereafter -- and an ERA of 2.16. He allowed just two earned runs, both of them in the opening day loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, in 8 1/3 innings pitched.

Before last season, Rivera had strung together four straight seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA, and his career ERA of 2.21 is the second-lowest in baseball history among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched since the stat became official in 1913.

But in 2013, he will be trying to do what no relief pitcher ever has done, namely be an effective closer after his 43rd birthday, which was Thursday. Among the 10 pitchers with the most saves in baseball history, only one, Dennis Eckersley, had a save after he turned 43, and all he had was one.

The Yankees are expecting a lot more than that out of Rivera, a pitcher who has made a career out of doing the seemingly impossible, with ease.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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