Just two days ago, Joe Girardi stirred plenty of excitement when he said he was “absolutely” open to the idea of playing Mariano Rivera in center field this weekend. If Rivera wanted it to happen, it would happen. Seemed like a cool and quirky way to end a historic career.
But that was Thursday afternoon, and by Thursday night, the situation had changed.
It now seems entirely likely that Rivera has played his final game, preferring to let Thursday’s emotional sendoff at Yankee Stadium stand as his final moment as a player.
“I think that’s a big part of it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That was a special night for him, and the way it unfolded, and I think he wants it to end that way. But if he changes his mind, it’s OK. Whatever he wants to do.”
Rivera told Girardi that he doesn’t want to play tonight, and it seems likely he won’t want to play tomorrow either.
“I don’t think we’re probably going to see (him play center field),” Girardi said. “At least I gave him the opportunity. It’s his decision. … I give him the option of telling me every day, that way if he changes his mind, he’s allowed to change his mind and it doesn’t look bad.”
Rivera is going to speak to the media as soon as batting practice ends, so that might bring some clarity about his state of mind, but that Thursday moment on the mound really does seem like perfect closure.
• Alex Rodriguez is also finished for the season. He won’t play today, won’t play tomorrow, and he’ll begin is suspension appeal hearing on Monday. “Let’s get it on,” Rodriguez said. He said he’s fighting for his life, so he plans to be present for the entire process. He did not say whether he will testify.
• Why does Rodriguez seem so gung-ho about the hearing? “This has been a burden; a big burden,” he said. “Better to face it head on. Better Monday than let’s say, the one thing I didn’t want it to be was like December 14. A: it’s not fair to the Yankees; B: it’s not fair to baseball. Let’s go. You know what I mean?”
• Girardi on his curiosity about the Rodriguez hearing: “It will probably be hard not to follow it. Obviously it affects the team, so you’re going to follow it.”
• Another process that could begin very quickly after the season is a decision about whether Girardi returns as Yankees manager. His contract expires at the end of the season — technically at the end of October — and despite speculation that he might show interest in the Cubs job, Girardi has said he’d like to come back. “The thing is, you don’t (negotiate contracts) during the season here,” Girardi said. “The season will be over tomorrow, and I’m sure some things will start to happen.”
• Despite being on turn to start tomorrow’s finale, Hiroki Kuroda will sit. David Huff is the most likely starter, though Girardi said that’s not set in stone just yet. “(Kuroda)’s logged in so many innings, so if I don’t need him tomorrow, I won’t use him,” Girardi said.
• Of course, there’s on last farewell happening tonight with Andy Pettitte pitching his final game. “I think it will be special,” Girardi said. “Probably emotional at the end of it as well, but he’s had a wonderful career, and to be able to finish it this way – obviously, somewhat disappointed we’re not in the playoffs – but if you do and not be in the playoffs, pitching your final game at Yankee Stadium and then coming here, it’s got to be special.”
Associated Press photos