Rivera hints 2012 could be final season

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 New York 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. “But I’m not ready to tell you yet.”

Rivera told The Associated Press he won’t reveal his decision until “maybe October.”

Because 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,” Rivera said.

When asked if there was anything that could make him change his mind — as 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.

Rivera is signed through this season. After the retirements of Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, Rivera and 37-year-old Derek Jeter are the only remaining players from the core group that led the Yankees’ resurgence.

“My kids want me home,” Rivera told the AP on Monday. “They were ready for me to stay home. I had to tell them, I have a job to do. I have obligations.”

Should he retire, Rivera has many interests away from baseball.

“I have my church, my family,” he told AP. “I’ve been blessed in amazing ways. I’ve have a great career, but at the same time, there’s other things to do.”

Rivera had an eventful offseason, undergoing surgery in December to remove polyps from his vocal cords.

“It did scare me,” Rivera told AP. “It did change a lot of things. It shows you how quick you can be gone. How important not to overlook anything. It could be cancer. I was relieved when everything came back negative.”

Rivera wasn’t able to talk for a week after the operation.

“Not being able to speak, I was going crazy,” he said, “but at the same time you appreciate that.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.