Mariano Rivera Unwraps Christmas Gift to the Yankees: Vows to be Ready Opening Day

Mariano Rivera was at Yankee Stadium Wednesday, ostensibly to participate in the New York Yankees annual holiday food drive.  But, as's Bryan Hoch reports, the biggest relief was earmarked for the Yankees themselves... Rivera expects to be the teams closer when the 2013 season opens.

"I don't see why not," Rivera said. "We have at least three months, four months to that point. I'll be ready."

Rivera is baseball's all-time leader in saves with 608, but that number alone does not come close to reflecting the dominance he has demonstrated in the closer role since 1997, nor his overall importance to the team.  With Derek Jeter working his way back from a broken ankle and Andy Pettitte signed on for one more season, the Yankees will retain their core veterans who have led this team through the Joe Torre / Joe Girardi era.

Rivera signed a 1-year deal that will pay him $10 million for the upcoming campaign.   His 2012 season ended when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament while shagging fly balls during pre-game warm-ups in May.  The image of him crumpled on the warning track in Kansas City is one he will not let be his last on a big league field.

Still, he has yet to start any serious throwing.  "My arm is good. Everything else feels good," he said, "so I will start throwing the baseball pretty soon." Asked about the injury he incurred, he stated, "I don't want to give you a number, I don't want to speculate, but I'm feeling good," "The leg is getting stronger and stronger, and that's it. You have to give it time. I am doing my part, and time is doing its part"

Now the Yankees have to do their part, and put together a lineup that will deliver to Rivera those many save opportunities as he had in the past. New York's 2012 was a season marked by poor offensive production with two outs, and particularly in the post-season

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