At 43-years old, Mariano Rivera is coming off the first lost season in his unmatched 18-year run in the big leagues as the game’s best ever reliever pitcher, closer or not.
As the New York Yankees arrive in Florida for Spring Training, there will undoubtedly be questions surrounding the team’s long-time closer. How are his knees feeling? How much closer is he to retirement? How will the layoff affect his preparation?
Most of the answers aren’t going to come until we’re well into the season, but as for the final question, Rivera already knows what he’s going to do about preparing for 2013 coming off the longest-layoff of his career.
It’s simple, really. He’s not going to change anything at all:
“I’ll be doing the same thing….If I need extra, I will do extra. But if I don’t, I will make sure that I do what I need to do to be ready to go.”
Rivera has said that despite the layoff, his knees seem to be as normal as far as he can tell, and he looks forward to testing his stuff after having to watch from the sidelines last year. Though the fact that he’s not doing anything extra might be read as a lack of motivation to come back stronger than ever, I would give Rivera’s knowledge of his form the benefit of the doubt here, especially with the kind of track record of durability and excellence that he has.
The “if it ain’t broke” approach taken by the Yankees closer has also received the endorsement of manager Joe Girardi, who says that on top of not asking his bullpen anchor to do any more than what he’s accustomed to in camp, he’ll also allow Rivera to shag fly balls in the outfield during the 2013 season.
That revelation is likely to raise some initial concerns among Yankees fans, who might think lightning could strike twice on Mo’s surgically-repaired knee. It’s not entirely without merit, and you could argue that the pre-game exercise isn’t a necessary part to Rivera’s success.
Then again, perhaps it is.
Perhaps the reason that Rivera isn’t changing anything this year is because he doesn’t want to force anything that would otherwise affect his preparation. What happened to his knee was a freak injury, after all, and not necessarily indicative of wear-and-tear on his body.
Much of the baseball world will be looking to see how the future Hall-of-Fame closer responds, and if he’ll be as good as he’s been all these years. Rivera might not be doing anything extra, but he’s simply doing exactly what he needs to do to get back there.
After all these years, can you really doubt him?