Sept 19: New York Yankees Mariano Rivera blows a kiss to the crowd to acknowledge cheers after recording his 602nd save as the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 at Yankee Stadium in New York.AP
Feb. 20, 2012: New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera practices at baseball spring training in Tampa, Fla. (AP)
After years of tip-toeing around the issue, Mariano Rivera on Monday made his strongest statements yet that this will be his final season on the mound.
While the Yankees closer refused to come out and say he was retiring at the end of the year, he made it clear he knows what he is going to do.
"I made my decision already," the 42-year-old Rivera said in front of his locker at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. "But I'm not ready to tell you yet."
And since baseball's top closer has shown no signs of slowing down, he insisted further success on the field would not impact his future, saying he made the call about two or three weeks ago.
"It doesn't depend on anything, I always want to do my job," said Rivera.
When asked if there was anything that could make him change his mind -- since he has repeatedly hinted that the end was in sight in the past only to later sign multi-year deals and pitch at a Hall-of-Fame level -- Rivera did not waiver.
"This one is different," Rivera said. "This is it."
"This is something everybody goes through," Rivera said. "It's just a matter of time. How many times did I tell you guys this is my last year? Seven or eight years: 'I'm not going to play after this year' and then I sign a contract for two more years, three more years.' But this one is different. This is it. This one is my decision."
Later, he added, "It's irrevocable."
After passing Trevor Hoffman and breaking the major league saves record in 2011, Rivera enters this year with 603 saves and was never better than he was a season ago, when he finished with 44 saves.