The gloom surrounding the news that New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had a torn right ACL— which could end the career of baseball's all-time saves leader— was sliced by by a glimmer of hope as sharp as one of Rivera's cut fastballs. Derek Jeter spoke about Rivera's grit and still believes the closer could be back in 2012.
"I'm not a doctor but I wouldn't be surprised if he is back here this year," said the Yankees captain.
No man probably knows Rivera better than his teammate Jeter. The two cornerstones of the current Yankees dynasty have played together for 16 years and the shortstop has seen Rivera shag pre-game fly balls without a problem for every one of them.
Rivera collapsed in the outfield with a torn ACL before last night's game against the Kansas City Royals doing what he loved to do— and what many considered him a natural at doing— chasing down fly balls in centerfield.
"It's bad, I mean it's bad, there's no other way you can put it," Jeter said. "It's unfortunate. I mean Mo shags every day, he's been doing that for 20-some years as long as I've known him and it just seems like one of those freak things."
Jeter did not see Rivera's Thursday night's stumble out at the Kauffman Stadium warning track. Jeter was the DH last night so he wasn't outside during that portion of batting practice but you can bet he saw him being carted off the field along with a lot of Yankees saves.
The Yankees shortstop knows Rivera's absence will be a big void to fill even though Dave Robertson— the favorite to take over for Mo in the ninth inning— has shown signs of brilliance himself. Robertson had a breakout season in 2011 and made the All-Star team.
"Mo's a vital part of this team, on the field, off the field, he's going to be missed," said Jeter. "You don't replace him, someone can do his job but you can't replace him. Other guys are are going to have to pick it up."
Robertson saw Rivera go down and initially thought the fun-loving pitcher was playing around.
"I thought it was funny and then I realized he was really injured and down," said Robertson "There was nothing I could do but stand there and watch."
Jeter remained optimistic about Rivera's return to the mound in 2012.
"I know how much he cares about coming here and doing his job and being available every day," Jeter said. "And he works hard and he's going to work hard at his recovery but like I said I'm no doctor, but I won't be surprised to see him back this year.
"He's disappointed but he'll be back."