The 43-year-old closer announced in March that he’d retire at the end of this season and he said he wanted give all he had before leaving the game. He feels like he did that this season.
”I think I squeezed every ounce of fuel that I had in my tank, and it’s empty,” Rivera said. ”I have nothing left. I gave everything that I had.”
Rivera’s 1,115th and final regular season appearance came Thursday, when he entered with one out in the eighth inning against Tampa Bay and retired four straight batters before longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came out to the mound to remove their friend from his home finale.
”I know that was the perfect moment to leave the game,” Rivera said Saturday.
As he handed the ball to Pettitte on Thursday night, tears began to flow from Rivera amid what became a four-minute standing ovation by the Yankees faithful.
”I think Thursday was the day that I left everything on the field,” Rivera said. ”I was, I won’t say hurt, but sore. I was pitching with tremendous soreness in my arm. But at the same time, I was giving everything.”
”I didn’t know how I got those two outs in the ninth inning,” he continued. ”Only by the mercy of God. I knew it was over.”
Rivera said he had been pitching in pain for a while, at one point referencing his elbow, but he would not elaborate on the exact problem.
”That’s something that we don’t talk about,” Rivera said. ”That’s something you manage.”
Rivera finished with record saves totals of 652 in the regular season and 42 in the postseason. He had an 82-60 record with a 2.21 ERA during the regular season over 19 years, and an 8-1 record with an 0.70 ERA in 96 postseason games.
Alex Rodriguez, a teammate for a decade, said this week has been difficult knowing that these are his last days as teammates with Rivera and Pettitte, who also is retiring.
”It’s hard to watch,” Rodriguez said. ”It’s definitely very emotional. To hear Mo talk about it privately is pretty emotional. Those two guys, to lose those two guys in one year, is going to be very hard.”
Rivera said he is looking forward to enjoying his family and resting in his retirement.
Earlier this week, Rivera had expressed interest in playing center field before his departure. But on Saturday he had a change of heart, saying that he didn’t think his surgically repaired right knee was up to it.
”I did consider it strongly. If it had been a few years earlier, then I would have done it,” Rivera said. ”But now my knee is not cooperating. I’m not going to make a fool out of myself out there. I respect the game too much for me to do something that I am not supposed to be doing.”
He said that if not for the achy knee, he would have played outfield it in a heartbeat.
”That’s how much I love the game,” Rivera said. ”I regret that it wasn’t sooner. But again, it wasn’t meant to happen, and I’m OK with that.”