If the New York Yankees are to win their 28th World Series this season, they’ll have to do it without the man who played a huge role in capturing their previous four.
Closer Mariano Rivera — who holds the all-time record for regular-season and post-season saves, and was on the mound for the final out of the Yankees’ last four world championships — tore the ACL in his right knee on Thursday night in Kansas City and will miss the rest of the season. Given the grueling rehab process ahead, and his age (42), it is possible that Rivera may opt for retirement rather than attempt a comeback in 2013.
About one hour before the Yankees’ 4-3 loss against the Royals, Rivera, as is his custom, was shagging fly balls in the outfield. Jayson Nix — who was called up to the major leagues hours earlier, to replace the injured Eric Chavez — hit a fly ball to deep center field, and as Rivera was chasing it down, his right knee buckled, and he fell to the turf in pain.
As teammates and coaches surrounded him, Yankees team trainer Steve Donohue helped him onto a golf cart, and Rivera was carted off the field. Despite flashing a smile on his way off the field, Rivera was seen being helped into the locker room by manager Joe Girardi and an assistant trainer.
Rivera was then taken to Kansas University Med-West Hospital, where an MRI revealed the torn ACL. Despite the tear being a “preliminary report,” Girardi said that it could be “as bad as it gets.” He went on to add, “It’s not what you want, but it’s not season over.”
Despite Girardi’s optimism, it is all but a certainty that Rivera will miss the remainder of the season. After blowing an Opening Day save in St. Petersburg, Fla. against the Rays, Rivera fired eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. He will finish the season with a 1-1 record, a 2.16 ERA, and five saves in 8 1/3 innings.
Ace set-up man Dave Robertson, who has yet to be scored on in 2012, figures to step into Rivera’s large shoes and assume the closer role. The Yankees also have another closer on the roster in Rafael Soriano, who saved 27 games for the 2009 Braves and 45 games for the 2010 Rays before signing with the Yankees as a free agent. Last in line, and waiting in the wings, is David Aardsma, a 30-year old righty who was Seattle’s closer in 2009 and 20010 (69 saves), who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and was signed by the Yankees in February. It is unlikely he will return to competition before August, if at all this season.
What do you think? Can the Yankees survive without the greatest closer of all-time? Will he return in 2013? Chime in below!