Rivera confident of rebound from shoulder surgery

Saturday, February 14, 2009
By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer

TAMPA, Fla. —  The way Mariano Rivera sees it, the New York Yankees won't be looking for a closer for quite a while.

Now 39, Rivera is coming off one of his statistically superior seasons: 39 saves in 40 chances and a 1.40 ERA, his lowest since 2005.

It wasn't evident when he pitched, but his shoulder hurt. He had surgery Oct. 7 during which New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek shaved down calcification of the A.C. joint on the top of Rivera's right shoulder.

"It was painful when I pitched three days consecutive, four days, pitching more than an inning," he said Saturday following the Yankees' first workout of the year. "I was taking all kinds of medicine to take the pain away. It did work. But it's too much. I didn't want to go through that again. We were fighting for a playoff spot. I couldn't sit and wait for my shoulder to recover."

With spring training extended to 7 1/2 weeks this year, the Yankees and Rivera aren't rushing. Usually, he only throws eight-to-10 innings during the exhibition season.

For now, there is no schedule for the nine-time All-Star to begin mound sessions.

"It's going to be a little slower," he said. "My shoulder feels great, but I haven't thrown. Just tossing, playing catch, going gradually to 70, 90, 100 feet."

Rivera has two more seasons remaining on a contract that pays him $15 million annually. He doesn't worry about his body forcing him to retire.

"It's never crossed my mind. I won't be throwing 97-98, but if I throw 94-95 and hit my spots, I'm fine with that," he said. "Oh, the end is coming. Sooner or later it's going to come. That's why I don't worry about those things."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a similar attitude.

"I don't necessarily think we have to go out and find a closer to replace Mo now, in a sense, for three years, four years, five years down the road," he said.


THE JOBA FACTOR:@ Joba Chamberlain is slated to be in the starting rotation, but there is a small possibility he could be shifted back to the bullpen if Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy has a dominant spring training.

Girardi understands the debate over whether Chamberlain should start or relieve.

"I think his success as a reliever was probably more hyped because of the games that he came into, but he was really good as a starter, as well," Girardi said. "And I understand the debate. I mean, now that we don't have presidential debates, it's probably the biggest debate going on."


BETTING MEN:@ Hideki Matsui made a wager at the start of spring training last year with former teammate Bobby Abreu and Derek Jeter about who would get married first, knowing he was in late March. Abreu had six months to get married to win the bet, while Jeter was given a year. "Abreu left without paying," Matsui said with a smile. "Jeter has one more month." The amount of wager was not disclosed.


NOTES:@ The Yankees have dropped Adidas as their supplier of clubhouse gear. Clubhouse attendants are now using Nike clothing and footwear. Chief operating officer Lonn Trost said the deal with Nike was done in coordination with MLB's Nike deal for licensed merchandise, and that it was a relatively small agreement and did not include provisions for signage. The Yankees shook up baseball when they struck a $95 million, 10-year marketing deal with Adidas America in March 1997. ... Matsui took on-field batting practice for the first time since left knee surgery on Sept. 22. "It's been a while since the last time, but it feels pretty good," Matsui said. During one stretch Matsui hit three consecutive homers. He expects to start doing sprints at 100 percent in the next week or two. Girardi says he will be ready for opening day, but probably as a DH and not as a LF. ... Catcher Jorge Posada said his shoulder is pain free following surgery July 30. He made 140 throws Friday and 90 Saturday.

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