Girardi expects Mo to return; Pettitte may be back too

Girardi expects Mo to return; Pettitte may be back too

Girardi expects Mo to return; Pettitte may be back too
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera reserved a spot on the dugout bench for all of the Yankees' postseason home games, playing the role of a uniformed cheerleader -- one who just happens to be the game's all-time saves leader.

"Part of the team, supporting the guys. That's all I can do," Rivera said during the playoffs.

The Yankees expect he'll be far more active around this time next year. Rivera vowed to return to the mound after having his season cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and manager Joe Girardi sees no reason not to expect the closer to report to Spring Training.

"From watching how he rehabbed and everything that he was going through -- [Rivera] picked up a baseball sooner than he was supposed to and got his hand smacked a little bit -- that would tell me that Mo probably wants to play," Girardi said.

Girardi said that he has not spoken to Rivera since the season ended, but he is well aware of how Rivera aggressively handled his rehab after crumpling on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium on May 3 in pursuit of a batting practice fly ball.

 "It's a decision that I think he'll sit down with his family, evaluate where he is maybe a little bit later in this process and how he feels," Girardi said. "But I don't think that you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you think that you possibly have some interest in coming back."

The Yankees may have reason to nudge Rivera for a decision in the near future. Rafael Soriano excelled in Rivera's absence, logging 42 saves in 46 chances, and may trigger an opt-out clause to forfeit the $14 million he is due in 2013 in hopes of landing a new multiyear deal. Rivera is also set to become a free agent.

Girardi also said that he expects left-hander Andy Pettitte to strongly consider returning to the Yankees in 2013 after a fractured left leg limited the veteran to just 12 regular season starts, plus two more in the postseason.

Pettitte said after the Yankees' elimination in the American League Championship Series that he wanted to take about a month to think about his situation, but that his limited workload had not fully exhausted his competitive desires.

"There's a lot of hunger and fire in him, I know that," Girardi said. "We saw how he pushed himself to get back and to be a postseason and down-the-stretch pitcher for us, going out there where he had 65 pitches, which is not normally something you do at this time of the year.

 "I still think the fire is there, but every year as you get a year older, you have to ask yourself and your family: 'Am I ready to give up eight months of my life?' That's something that he's going to have to ask himself."