Rivera's future is uncertain
Legendary closer's contract to expire after 2007 season
TAMPA -- Mariano Rivera acknowledged the absence of longtime teammate Bernie Williams on Monday, calling it "strange."
Could players be saying the same thing about the Yankees closer one year from now? Rivera's commitment to the team expires after 2007, and while he said he would love to retire in New York, he realizes that scenario is not yet certain.
"Definitely, I want to finish my career here," Rivera said. "But if they don't give me the respect that I deserve, [if] I have to move on, I have to move on. The Yankees always give me respect. When it comes to these times, I don't like to talk about it."
Rivera -- with Williams' apparent parting, now the longest-tenured Yankees big leaguer -- met the media near the front entrance of the Yankees' Minor League complex, his words draped by the background of passing traffic.
Though he appears to have given some thought to his baseball fate, Rivera insisted that he is not upset. Rivera's focus, he said, remains on helping the 2007 Yankees accomplish their goal of a World Series championship.
That mission begins Tuesday, as pitchers and catchers officially report to Legends Field. As Rivera noted, he is under contract with the team, and would not let any uncertainty concerning his future creep into his current obligations.
"I'm not that kind of player," Rivera said. "I play for the team. I'm a team player. I don't have to think about that stuff."
The Yankees have not made overtures to Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, regarding an extension of the original two-year, $21 million contract that will expire after this season. Rivera will earn $10.5 million this season, the option year of that contract.
Rivera said he would be receptive to discussing an extension with the team -- "If they want to talk, we'd be willing to listen," he said -- but the closer noted he did not plan on initiating conversations.
"Like I said, this is a business," Rivera said. "If they have somebody who can do a job better than I do, they will do it. So I don't have to worry about those things. When the time comes, if they want me back, they want me back.
"Otherwise, I'm not going to sit in my house crying. I'd have to move on."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- who was scheduled to arrive in Tampa on Monday -- and Cuza did not return calls for comment.
Finding a successor to Rivera's throne would be difficult. A lifetime Yankee who signed with the organization in February 1990 and grew to become generally regarded as one of the top closers of all time, Rivera posted a 1.80 ERA over 63 appearances last season, including 34 saves in 37 opportunities.
Rivera said he had refrained from throwing for much of the offseason and that he has no concerns about his elbow, which was rested last September in preparation for the club's abbreviated postseason entry.
Clearly, at some point, Rivera acknowledged that his years of service in the Major Leagues will be complete. He needed no more glaring reminder of that than the fact that Williams' No. 51 will apparently go unused this spring.
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"My body is ready to go," Rivera said. "Definitely, this is not going to be forever, but I'm going to do as much as I can and enjoy."
Rainy day blues: With overcast skies and drizzle blanketing the Yankees complex, most of the early reportees were confined to workouts in covered batting cages and long-tossing across the outfield.
A noticeably slimmer Carl Pavano made the rounds while jogging on a warning track. Meanwhile, a group of pitchers were able to throw side sessions in adjoining bullpens, although Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa -- who had been scheduled to throw in one -- had his workout scratched.
The 27-year-old left-hander said he has not yet worked with catcher Jorge Posada, but would do so when camp moves across the street to Legends Field. Igawa noted that he is still getting acclimated to the lifestyle of the United States, but had positive words so far regarding his first experiences in Florida.
"Today was just bad weather," Igawa said through an interpreter. "Normally, it's a nice environment to work."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.