On Thursday, a day after he threw out the first pitch ahead of Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, injured Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said that his right knee has healed well enough that running has entered the picture.
"We're in the process to start doing some jogging now -- running, getting a lot of mobility into the leg," Rivera said on Thursday at LaGuardia Airport, where he was promoting the Yankees' official airline, Delta. "Running, side jogs -- see where that puts us."
Rivera's season ended after about one month because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in that knee, sustained while he was shagging fly balls before a game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
Rivera has still become a part of Yankees lore this October. When Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3, Rivera told Rodriguez that Ibanez would go deep. The closer was right; Ibanez's pinch-hit drive tied the game at 2 three innings before his second homer secured a 3-2 win.
"I told him that we were going to tie this game right here," Rivera said. Why was he so sure?
"I'm always like that," Rivera said. "I'm glad it worked."
Rivera said he didn't get a chance to talk to Rodriguez after the game -- it was too hectic -- but that it was possible he would talk to Rodriguez on Thursday. Rivera said he wasn't surprised by manager Joe Girardi's decision to pinch-hit for Rodriguez, whose ego may have taken a hit.
"You have to do whatever you have to do to win the game," Rivera said. "If Alex wasn't doing it at the time, I think it was a great move. It worked. Everybody is part of the team; we all have to be ready."
Rivera, who will turn 43 in November, was confident that he will be ready for Spring Training.
"I'm working toward that," Rivera said. "Like I said before, I'm always confident."
Being forced to watch instead of playing hurts for any superstar, Rivera included. The right-hander was in the home clubhouse after the celebration on Wednesday, and he commended the job fill-in closer Rafael Soriano has done in his place. The win was still tremendous for Rivera.
"It feels great," Rivera said on Wednesday. "There are a lot of emotions, but what a great game. Thank God we have Raul on our side. It's great to be back here, to be on the field. It feels great. That's what I can tell you guys."
Top-flight Major League closers had a rough day on Wednesday, one of them at the Yankees' expense. Baltimore's Jim Johnson gave up the first home run to Ibanez, and in Oakland, Detroit's Jose Valverde gave up three runs to the A's in the ninth as Oakland won Game 4 of its ALDS, 4-3.
Asked what the best postseason closer in history would tell the two men, Rivera hedged a couple words of encouragement with the caveat that they're not in his clubhouse.
"It's part of the game," Rivera said. "It's tough -- you have to bounce back. You can't do anything. It's already behind you, and you have to come back today. But they're not my teammates, either."