TAMPA, Fla. -- When Mariano Rivera walked into the pavilion just outside George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday to announce his retirement, he was followed closely by Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. While the rest of the team stood in one corner of the room, Jeter and Pettitte were the only two Yankees sitting down not far from Rivera as he announced that he would retire after the 2013 season.
It was an appropriate representation of their relationship, as both Rivera and Jeter described the three as like "brothers" given everything they've gone through together during their time with the Yankees. And it seems equally fitting, given that relationship, that the only thing that nearly caused Rivera to break down on Saturday was the presence of all his teammates at his news conference.
"What almost got me was seeing my whole team there. That was wonderful," Rivera said. "That was great that [manager Joe Girardi] would allow all those guys. I was like, 'Wow.'"
Rivera's teammates had far more to say about his incredible career Saturday, praising his unparalleled work on the mound and his caring demeanor off the field. Nobody was particularly surprised by his decision to make this coming season his last one, but they all had trouble imagining a Yankees clubhouse without their iconic closer.
"I've known, you know what I mean? It's great that he's come to peace with what he wants to do and he's let everyone know, and now he can enjoy the season," Jeter said. "I think it's going to be a special year for him. I can't relate to it in terms of someone announcing that it's your last year and going through your last year.
"Not saying he doesn't appreciate it to begin with, but he might appreciate every time he goes to different stadiums, the last time there. I'm happy for him. I'm happy that he's made this decision, and it's the best one for him and his family."
Rivera informed team ownership, general manager Brian Cashman, Girardi and a few teammates, including Jeter and Pettitte, of his decision when he arrived for Spring Training. Girardi, who has worked as Rivera's catcher and manager, said the two talked about Rivera's impending retirement a week or 10 days ago in Girardi's office.
While Rivera dropped heavy hints last spring that he would retire at the end of the 2012 season, Girardi said he never asked about it then. He genuinely didn't want to know.
"I don't know why that's why he came in and told me or what," Girardi said. "But we knew it was coming soon."
Added Girardi: "We're going to miss him. But I'm sure we'll see him around, and I'm sure next year, when he comes to Spring Training, people will wonder if he's making a comeback."
Pettitte did the same thing last year, but he doesn't see Rivera making a similar comeback. First of all, Rivera will turn 44 this November, whereas Pettitte just turned 40 last season.
Pettitte was convinced that Rivera wouldn't have any problems physically if he chose to keep pitching due to his sound mechanics and his healthy arm. But Pettitte said it's also apparent Rivera has made up his mind that he's going to go out on his own terms, that he's not going to force himself to pitch when he doesn't think his heart's fully behind it.
"I know he's at that point. He's committed to this season, and then now it's about his family," Pettitte said. "Once you get to that point, you can't keep playing this game, especially if you want to compete at a high level. That decision is something -- you never want to talk somebody into changing their mind for the wrong reasons."
Jorge Posada, the final member of the Core Four, chimed in on Rivera's decision in a statement released by the Yankees.
"There is only one Mariano Rivera. There won't be another person who will come along and do what he did. No one does it like him," Posada said. "It was an honor to catch him and play alongside him for as long as I did. He made my job as a catcher so much easier. Mariano is a special person and obviously a special player.
"I'm so happy he is going out on his terms. Now every time he steps into a ballpark this year, teams and fans can celebrate and appreciate what he has meant to this great game we play."
Jeter expected the same thing, that fans across baseball -- whether they cheer for the Yankees or some other team -- would come out to wherever Rivera goes this season to express their appreciation for what he's done in his career.
You might see a similar response inside the Yankees' clubhouse this year, too. Girardi admitted he'll probably appreciate watching his closer pitch this year more than ever, and Rivera's "brothers" hope to cherish their last year together as teammates.
"We just have a special relationship," Pettitte said. "Obviously, when you spend as much time together as we have over so many years together, you just grow a little bit closer to one another than you would to other teammates. I think our minds all work alike as far as our commitment to this organization and to this game.
"The will to win I really believe we all have, and the mindset it takes, I really believe we have a lot in common as far as that goes. The good times and the bad times, he's always been there for me. It's a special relationship that I've been able to have with him over the years."