Former closer also talks future plans, gives thoughts on Cano in episode to air May 22
NEW YORK -- Legendary closer Mariano Rivera says he still believes he could get the job done if Yankees general manager Brian Cashman were to call him up later this summer and inquire about his services. Whether or not Rivera would actually say yes, however, is a different story.
Rivera sat down with Michael Kay on Monday afternoon to record an episode of YES Network's "CenterStage," during which Rivera talked about a vast array of topics ranging from his remarkable career all the way back to his childhood in a small fishing village in Panama. The episode will premiere on May 22, following YES Network's broadcast of the Yankees-White Sox game and postgame show.
As for potentially returning to the mound if the Yankees needed him down the stretch, Rivera quickly put that idea to rest.
"I can do it," Rivera said, with a laugh. "But would I do it? No."
Rivera, whose recently published book The Closer hit shelves last week, admitted that he indeed misses the game and all that goes with it. In his retirement, he said he watches Yankees games as close as anyone and commended the job done so far by his successor, David Robertson.
Still, it's not enough to draw Rivera out of retirement, because even if he were to come back and retire again down the road, he knows there will never come a day when he doesn't miss playing.
"I do miss the game," Rivera said. "But I always will miss it, because that's something that's a part of me. That's something I've done for more than half of my life. If I said I didn't miss it, I'd be lying."
Though retired, Rivera hasn't slowed down much since his last Major League appearance on Sept. 26.
Along with penning his book alongside co-author Wayne Coffey, Rivera has had the street where Yankee Stadium is located renamed in his honor, while also continuing his work at the church he and his wife restored and now run together in New Rochelle, N.Y. The latter is something Rivera calls his greatest accomplishment.
"It is No. 1," Rivera said. "The reason why I say that is because baseball is something I did, not who I am. Baseball is a sport, it's a game, and yeah, it takes everything possible for you to win -- the organization, the city, the team. But what we're doing now is trying to change people's lives, for those who need help. That's why it's No. 1, because if we touch just one person's life, I think we're doing a good job."
All of this comes less than 25 years after Rivera left behind his small fishing village in Panama to pursue greater things on the baseball diamond. At the time, Rivera had no way of knowing that he would not only break into the Major Leagues, but become the all-time greatest closer -- especially since he began his career as a starter.
"Anybody can do it. If I did it, anybody can do it," Rivera said, when asked what message he hoped to convey through his new book. "There's a lot of tough times -- great times, but also tough times. Some people believe they don't have a chance to reach their goals, but that's the message I want to bring across: Yes, you can fulfill your dreams."
Upon its release last week, Rivera's book received attention for other reasons as well, concerning his comments about former Yankee Robinson Cano. Rivera, who in his book says he'd choose Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the field if he had to win one game, also took some time during the CenterStage taping to clear up any potential confusion regarding his thoughts on Cano.
"I feel like that was taken in a different context. The point I wanted to make is that Robbie has so much natural talent, and sometimes you have a tendency to forget how good you are," Rivera said. "Then we see him not running hard to first base or diving for certain balls, and that's hard to see, because I love Robbie like my brother, and I always tell him to play the game right."
Rivera not only told his teammates to play the game the right way, but he led by example for 19 big league seasons in the Bronx. His career included countless highlights, from helping the Yankees win five World Series titles right down to his final appearance in pinstripes when longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to take him out of the game with two outs in the ninth inning.
In an emotional scene on the Yankee Stadium mound, Rivera buried his head in Pettitte's shoulder and began to cry, while receiving a raucous ovation from the crowd. Rivera said that moment was a mix of sadness and joy, though his time for reflection had come in the clubhouse between the eighth and ninth innings that night.
"I started seeing everything like a movie," Rivera said. "Everything from Panama to the last moment was going through my head. It was something I never experienced in my life, and I thank God for that moment, because I wouldn't trade it for anything."