Yankees’ Rivera Tears Knee Ligament During Batting Practice

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees
Closer Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees. Photographer: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Mariano Rivera, Major League Baseball’s saves leader, suffered a potentially career-ending torn ligament in his right knee before the New York Yankees’ 4-3 loss at the Kansas City Royals last night.

Rivera was injured while catching fly balls in center field during batting practice at Kauffman Stadium. The 42-year-old was driven from the field on a cart before being taken to a hospital for a scan, which revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament, manager Joe Girardi told reporters.

“If that’s what it is, I’ve never seen anyone come back,” Girardi said. “This is bad, there’s no question about it.”

Rivera hinted during spring training that he may end his 18-year major league career when his $30 million, two-year contract expires at the end of this season. He told reporters then that he’d made his decision about his future with the Yankees, although he didn’t disclose it. He declined to say last night if the injury might force his retirement.

“At this point I don’t know,” the 12-time All-Star said. “It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we’ll see.”

Rivera will return to New York to be examined by Yankees doctors. Girardi said he hadn’t decided on who would fill the closer’s role.

“I haven’t really thought that far out,” he told reporters. “I’ll sleep on that and decide what I’m going to do.”

David Robertson is the probable replacement, according to the Yankees website. The right-hander has yet to allow a run in 11 games out of the bullpen this season, striking out 18 in 11 innings.

‘Freak Thing’

As Rivera rolled on the ground in pain holding his knee last night, teammate Alex Rodriguez was seen on television saying, “Oh my God.” Girardi then ran across the outfield to the relief pitcher and helped him onto the cart.

“It seems like a freak thing,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said in a televised interview. “I’m no doctor, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back this year.”

Rivera got his record-setting 602nd save in a 6-4 win against the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 19. During his career, spent entirely with the Yankees, he has a 76-58 record with 608 saves and a 2.21 earned run average.

Only Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have more than 500 saves and the closest active player, 36-year-old Francisco Cordero of the Toronto Blue Jays, is 279 behind Rivera.

Rivera, who trots into games at Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” has had no prior significant injuries.

Gift From God

The foundation of his success is a cut fastball that can break bats, a pitch he’s called a gift from God.

Rivera has shown little sign of decline as he ages. He had ERAs of 1.40, 1.76, 1.80 and 1.91 from 2008-11, and is 1-1 with five saves and a 2.16 ERA in nine games this season.

Rivera, who also holds first place among active players in games played with 1,051, has had eight seasons with at least 40 saves, while he and Eric Gagne are the only relievers with two 50-save campaigns.

In helping the Yankees win five World Series titles, Rivera has totaled a record 42 postseason saves, more than twice as many as any other pitcher. He has an 8-1 record and 0.71 ERA in a record 96 career playoff appearances.

Rivera was named World Series Most Valuable Player in 1999 and American League Championship Series MVP in 2003.

Rivera is a member of the “Core Four” along with Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Jeter, who steered the Yankees to four World Series championships from 1996-2000.

First to Join

The son of a Panamanian fisherman, Rivera was the first of the quartet to join the Yankees, on Feb. 17, 1990. The others followed within a two-year span.

Pettitte, who went to Houston from 2004-06, announced his retirement in February 2011. The pitcher, who had a 240-138 record over 16 years, returned to sign a minor-league contract with the Yankees this year.

Catcher Posada retired at the end of last season with a .273 career batting average, 275 home runs and 1,065 runs batted in.

Jeter, who hasn’t mentioned retirement, leads active players with 3,128 hits, placing him 19th on the career list. He has an American League-best 40 hits this season.

In last night’s game, Kansas City (8-16) took the lead in the second inning on a Mike Moustakas home run. The Yankees (13-12) tied it in the next inning on a double by Mark Teixeira before the Royals regained the lead in the bottom of the third on a run-scoring single from Eric Hosmer.

Moustakas added a two-run single in the fifth before the Yankees got their last two runs on sacrifice flies from Eduardo Nunez and Teixeira in the sixth and seventh innings.

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