It’s official… Mariano Rivera is heading back to the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium…
The 43-year-old Panamanian relief pitcher has finalized a one-year deal with the New York Yankees reportedly worth a guaranteed $10 million. With incentives, Rivera’s paycheck could come close to the $15 million he was paid last year if he can stay healthy all season long.
Rivera made only nine appearances in 2012. His season ended with him writhing on the warning track in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on May 3 after tearing the ACL in his right knee while catching batting practice flies.
“Like I’ve been saying, I didn’t want to go out like that,” Rivera said in a statement released by the team. “I didn’t want that to be the last image.”
In Rivera’s absence last season, Rafael Soriano stepped onto the mound and saved 42 games in 46 opportunities.
But Soriano opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent, leaving the Yankees with one option: Rivera, the man who has saved more games (608) than any closer in the history of baseball and a pitcher widely considered to be the best at his job in the history of the game.
Likewise, Rivera had made it clear that he had no interest in pitching for any other team but the Yankees, for whom he has pitched his entire 17-year major league career.
In his nine appearances before his injury last season, Rivera was 1-1 with five saves — he had a blown save on Opening Day and was perfect thereafter — with an ERA of 2.16. He allowed just two earned runs, both of them in the opening day loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, in 8 1/3 innings pitched.
Before last season, Rivera had strung together four straight seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA, and his career ERA of 2.21 is the second-lowest in baseball history among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched since the stat became official in 1913.
But in 2013, he will be trying to do what no relief pitcher has ever done before, be an effective closer after his 43rd birthday. Among the 10 pitchers with the most saves in baseball history, only one, Dennis Eckersley, had a save after he turned 43, and all he had was one.