Rivera has some fun with Sox fans

Rivera has some fun with Sox fans

BOSTON -- It was just a few minutes after the World Series championship banner had been raised in center field, but the Red Sox fans were ready to welcome the Yankees to Fenway Park.

One by one, the Bronx Bombers were introduced to the sellout crowd, and one by one, each player with "New York" across his chest was being booed.

Jaret Wright? Boo. Randy Johnson? Boooo. Heck, even Andy Phillips got booed.

Then came the most bizarre moment of the day. Mariano Rivera's name was called, and as the closer stepped out of the dugout, the crowd broke into a standing ovation.

Rivera, who blew two saves against the Red Sox in last October's ALCS, then blew two more last week at Yankee Stadium, laughed at the applause, tipping his hat to the crowd.

"It surprised me. I didn't know they loved me so much here," said a grinning Rivera. "It was nice. I enjoyed it. I had to laugh."

"I thought he was a good sport about it," said manager Joe Torre, the only other Yankee to receive some applause. "We all know Mariano. He understands this game. When you do well and they jeer you, you handle that. When they mockingly cheer you, you handle that. When people take time to recognize you, it's a credit to who you are and what you are."

Rivera has had an aura of invincibility for most of his brilliant career, but there have been questions raised over the past week whether he has lost something off of his trademark cutter, or whether the Red Sox are simply in his head.

Whatever the problem may or may not be, the right-hander has clearly struggled against the Sox more than any other opponent, suffering nine of his 23 regular-season blown saves since 2001 against Boston.

"That was classic," said Alex Rodriguez, who received the loudest boos of any Yankees player. "I never thought I'd see the people of Boston cheering for Mariano Rivera. That was a first -- and hopefully it will be the last time."

"You probably won't hear that too much anymore," said Derek Jeter. "It was funny. He enjoyed it."

Some players may not have taken the "cheers" quite as well as Rivera did, but the laid-back Panamanian simply took it in stride.

"I felt honored," Rivera said. "What was I going to do? Get upset and start throwing baseballs at people? You just roll with it."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.