The 42-year-old Rivera injured himself while shagging fly balls in the outfield prior to Thursday's 4-3 Yankees loss to the Royals. Rivera lunged for a ball near the warning track, and his knee buckled before he landed in a heap at the base of the wall.
Rivera said that he decided what he was going to do during a sleepless night in his hotel room.
"I love to play the game," Rivera said. "I don't think, to me, going out like this is the right way. ... I don't think like that. With the strength of the Lord, I have to continue."
Rivera has saved 608 games, the most in Major League history, and he has also finished a record 892 games. The 12-time All-Star has been a part of five World Series championship teams with the Yankees, and he will be 43 years old when the 2013 season gets under way.
"I don't know when he's coming back, but Mo works hard -- everybody knows how hard he works," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "I'm not a doctor, but when you talk about a timetable, I'm pretty sure it'll be sooner rather than later. He works hard at what he does and takes a lot of pride in it. Hopefully he gets back soon."
Rivera said that he spoke to Dr. David Altchek in New York and will be examined on Monday, anticipating that surgery will be unavoidable. Rivera had asked if he could continue to pitch wearing a knee brace, but the idea was rejected.
According to Dr. Struan Coleman at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, Rivera will likely wait three to four weeks to have surgery, permitting swelling to go down.
Rivera would be able to resume light jogging in about three months and would get back to throwing in five to six months, Coleman said. The fact that Rivera injured his pushoff leg and not his landing leg helps his chances of a full recovery, as well as the fact that he is not a normal 42-year-old patient.
"At the end of the day, genetics also plays a huge role," Coleman said. "He probably has great healing; the fact that he has lasted as long is he has is probably Darwinian.
"There aren't many guys still playing professional sports at his age. His body obviously has great healing potential. If anybody is going to get back from fixing an ACL, it's going to be Mariano Rivera."
Rivera said that he will work hard to make sure he has no hesitation about his leg. He planned to address his teammates on Friday to inform them about his decision; Jeter was the first to know.
"Miracles happen, guys," Rivera said. "I'm OK. I'm a positive man. I'm OK. Everything is good. I feel sorry that I let down my teammates, but besides that, I'm OK. The team will be OK, too."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he had an inkling after a Thursday evening conversation that the third out Rivera secured in a 2-1 win over the Orioles on Monday was not the capper of his career.
"I just kind of had a feeling in talking to him last night that it wasn't the way he wanted to go out," Girardi said. "He still has to get through this rehab, and let's see where he's at. But Mo's a guy who wants to do things on his own terms and wants to determine when he's done. I don't think he's the kind of guy who would ever want to say, 'I was done because of an injury.'"
Rivera said that he has been touched by the outpouring of concern and support from around the league.
"It's great," Rivera said. "I think that you earn that through the years, and I believe that. I have seen so many players and respect them all, and I think you get that back. It's wonderful when you hear those kind of things from your peers. It's wonderful. This is just another chapter that starts, and I'm in the middle."
Rivera added that he will absolutely continue to shag fly balls during batting practice and repeated that he has no regrets about the way his injury occurred.
"Oh, believe it," Rivera said. "I tell you what, if it would have happened, I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm glad it happened while I was shagging. That's what I love to do. I love to do it, and I won't hesitate to do it again."
The hurler's contract with the Yankees expires after this year, but Rivera has no doubts that the team will welcome him back in pinstripes if he is able to prove that he is fully healthy.
"They will want the old goat," Rivera said with a grin.