Mariano Rivera could play OF

Updated: September 27, 2013, 1:19 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera has amassed a record 652 saves, has been a member of five World Series championship teams and is almost universally recognized as the greatest closer baseball ever has known.

This season, he has enjoyed a career victory lap afforded few players in the history of any sport.

But there is still one unfulfilled wish on Rivera's bucket list, and on Thursday, he moved closer to making it a reality: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he would seriously consider playing Rivera in center field this weekend in Houston in one of his club's final three games.

"Absolutely," Girardi said when asked if he was entertaining the prospect of allowing Rivera to achieve one more baseball dream. "But not here, because these games are still meaningful for Tampa."

The Yankees were officially eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday night, but have one more home game remaining with the Rays, who are still battling the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers for one of the two AL wild-card spots.

But with neither the Yankees nor the Astros playing for anything this weekend, Girardi said he might allow Rivera to play an inning or two in the outfield.

"You know, I don't know how I would do it," Girardi said. "It's something I would have to talk to him about. It's a situation where I might bring him in in the eighth to play the outfield, and then have him close it out in the ninth, if we have that opportunity."

Throughout his career, Rivera has enjoyed shagging flies in the outfield as the Yankees took batting practice. In fact, it was in the act of chasing a BP fly ball in Kansas City, Mo., in May 2012, that Rivera tore the ACL in his right knee, costing him much of last season.

In 2011, he told a TV interviewer, "I would love to play center field at least for one inning or one out. I told my manager. I don't think it would happen, but I hope so."

Now, it may, although when Girardi's words were relayed to Rivera before Thursday night's game, the 43-year-old seemed less eager than he would have been before the injury.

"It may be something good, if I permit it, though," Rivera said. "One thing I will tell you -- if I can do it, I will do it. If I cannot do it, I won't be making a fool of myself there. I'm a professional. This is not a joke for me. This is serious."

One of the quirks of Minute Maid Park in Houston is a 30-degree rise in center field known as Tal's Hill, although it is 436 feet from home plate. But Rivera's concerns seemed to have more to do with his physical condition.

"I put in the request way back, a long time ago, and now my knees are not the same," he said. "This is not a game for me. I don't know how you guys are taking it but this is not a game for me. It's something that I respect. We'll see what happens. If I'm OK, if I can do it, I will do it, if not, that's fine with me."

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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