You can tell by the No. 42 painted along each baseline that this day is all about Mariano Rivera. At least, it feels that way pregame. At some point, though, Andy Pettitte will take the mound, the first pitch will be thrown, and the Yankees will be right back in a desperate chase for a playoff berth.
This might be Mariano Rivera’s going-away party, but that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily pitch.
“I don’t feel necessarily a pressure right now to put him in the game because of what lies in front of us,” Joe Girardi said. “You might need him five out of six days next week, and you’d hate to make it where you used him six out of eight. So I don’t necessarily feel the pressure. Will that change as the day goes on? I don’t know. But right now, I don’t, because I think you have to focus on what the ultimate goal is.”
White boxes sat on each chair of each clubhouse locker this morning, a gift from Rivera to each of his teammates. Inside each box — each of which had a Rivera farewell logo on it — was a No. 42 jersey signed by Rivera.
Girardi, though, said he expects all of the farewell talk to end as soon as the ceremony is over. He does not think the game itself will be all about Pettitte and Rivera.
“Not at all,” Girardi said. “Our guys understand what we need to do. If anything, I think it might provide a little bit more excitement.”
Maybe the players really will be able to put this behind them and focus on the next nine innings, but you can bet most of us in the press box will be writing a lot about Rivera and Pettitte, television cameras will be cutting to those two throughout the game, and all the fans in the stadium will have a hard time forgetting what they’ve seen pregame. It’s going to be a celebration, with a game at the end.
“When I think about Mo, the numbers speak for themselves, what he’s done in this game,” Girardi. “The way he’s went about his business is something that you wish that everyone could do. I would tell my son or my kids, this is an example about how you’re supposed to go about your work. I’ve always said about Mo, he’s extremely focused on that day, that week, that month, that year, and never short-changes himself. Is always prepared. Gives everything he has on a daily basis. And does not let what happens in the game, determine who he is as a person. The game is obviously very important to us, but that’s not who you are. It’s what you do. I think Mo reflects that as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
• Literally the only non-Rivera, non-Pettitte part of Girardi’s pregame press conference was a question about his rotation for next week. The Yankees will skip the No. 5 spot and use Hiroki Kuroda to start on Tuesday. Girardi didn’t go into detail, but have to assume that means CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova will pitch the last two games of that Rays series.
• The way Girardi answered the rotation question was kind of awesome, pretty telling that he’s really thinking only one game at a time. “I have not put out a rotation yet,” he said. … Then: “Well, I mean, it’s probably going to be Hiro on Tuesday.” … And finally: “It’s going to be Hiro on Tuesday, yes.”
• I didn’t see him, but apparently Yogi Berra arrived about a half hour ago. Joe Torre and Jorge Posada are also here. And there’s a stage setup in the outfield, which strongly suggests a Metallica performance.
• Harder for Rivera and Pettitte to get focused after something like this? “The good thing is, Mo will have a couple of hours,” Girardi said. “And Andy gets so locked in once he starts his day, that I don’t think it will be an issue for either one of them. Andy will start his routine and it will be just like any other day for him.”
• Players were kind of coming and going this morning without a ton of Rivera talk. Everyone is pretty aware of what’s going on, and most of the players have said plenty about Rivera in the past week or two. It really was a fairly normal pregame clubhouse, except with a few more media members in there.
Associated Press photos