KANSAS CITY, Mo. - New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera says he will return to the mound by 2013, vowing to overcome a knee injury that figures to end his season.
Rivera had hinted at the start of spring training that he would retire after this season, and he wasn't sure what he would do after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and damaging the meniscus in his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice Thursday.
In the visitors clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, the 42-year-old sat on a stool in front of his locker and firmly said that he will not allow his career to end this way.
"I'm coming back. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going out like this," Rivera said, his almost happy-go-lucky demeanor in stark contrast to the somber mood of the previous night.
"This has me thinking," Rivera said, "I can't go down like this."
Rivera hurt his knee when his foot caught on the turf near the outfield wall before the series opener against Kansas City. An MRI taken during the game revealed the extent of the injury, and Rivera dabbed tears from his eyes when he spoke in the clubhouse Thursday night.
He then went back to his hotel room, reflected on his sterling career, and made his decision not to retire. He holds outside hope of returning late this season.
"Miracles happen," he said with a smile. "I'm a positive man. The only thing is that I feel sorry I let down my teammates. Besides that I'm OK."
Rivera spoke with New York Mets medical director David Altchek, who performed surgery on his shoulder after the 2008 season, and was told that he should be ready to work out again in about five months. Rivera hopes that allows him to pitch by the start of spring training.
"You know, I just kind of had a feeling in talking to him last night that it wasn't the way he wants to go out," manager Joe Girardi said. "He still has to get through this rehab and we'll see where he's at, but Mo wants to do things on his own terms, and determine when he's done, and I don't think he wanted to be done because of an injury."
Rivera remained with the team Friday night in Kansas City. He plans to return to New York this weekend before consulting with Yankees team physician Christopher Ahmad.
The right knee was tightly wrapped and Rivera was walking with crutches. He said there was significant swelling when he took a shower, and that will have to subside before he can undergo surgery. Rivera wasn't sure when that will happen.
"I love to play the game. To me, I don't think going out like this is the right way," Rivera said. "I don't want to retire because I got hurt in the way that it happened. I don't think like that. With the strength of the Lord, I just have to continue."
Rivera said he was touched by the outpouring of support he received after the injury. There was even a bouquet of flowers in the empty locker that adjoined his in the clubhouse.
"He's special," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Friday in Boston. "Hopefully he'll come back, even though he's with the bad guys."