NEW YORK – The great Mariano Rivera is getting set to close his career.
The New York Yankees’ reliever plans to announce this weekend that he will retire after the 2013 season, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday.
A news conference was called for Saturday at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.
The 43-year-old closer is baseball’s saves leader with 608. He is regarded as one of the best clutch pitchers in history, posting a record 42 postseason saves with an 0.70 ERA while helping the Yankees win five World Series championships.
“Greatest closer of all time. No question in my mind,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve had the thrill of catching him. I was there when he really burst onto the scene as a dominant setup man and then to see what he did as a closer has been a thrill for me.”
“It’s really hard to imagine that anyone could do the job he did,” he said. “At times it seemed like it wasn’t fair. That’s how good Mo was. He was so dominant.”
Rivera missed most of last season after he tore a ligament in his right knee while catching fly balls during batting practice. The right-hander was hurt May 3 and had surgery the next month.
“I can’t say it surprises me,” former Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “I think he was sort of in-between last year, before he got hurt. It didn’t surprise me he wanted to come back, just based on who he is and what he represents.”
Rivera returned home to Panama this week for a personal matter, and was expected to rejoin the team Saturday.
Hank Steinbrenner declined to say what would be announced at Saturday’s news conference but the Yankees co-chairman said he would like Rivera to remain involved with the team when he does end his playing career.
“If he wants to, that would be my preference,” Steinbrenner said. “I think he’d be a great influence, even if it’s only at spring training.”
There was a good chance Rivera would pitch in an exhibition game Saturday for the first time this spring.
The 12-time All-Star typically goes at his own pace in camp, fine-tuning his dreaded cut fastball in the bullpen and in simulated games.