Rivera: Torre's return a factor in whether he stays in N.Y.
NEW YORK -- If the Yankees plan to keep calling on Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, they might want to think carefully about who would be handing him the ball.
Rivera isn't happy that Joe Torre could be out as manager in New York and said the team's decision will be factored into whether he returns.
"I don't feel good about it," Rivera said Wednesday, two days after the Yankees' third straight exit in the first round of the playoffs. "I don't see why they're even thinking [about letting Torre go]. I wish he's back, definitely. If you ask me what I would want, I want him back."
Rivera's contract also is expiring and he is eligible to become a free agent. He said whether Torre returns will help determine whether he remains with the Yankees, the only major league club he's pitched for.
"It might do a lot of it," he said. "I mean, I've been with Joe for so many years, and the kind of person he has been for me and for my teammates, it's been great. The thing is that I don't see why they have to put him in this position."
Meetings on the manager's future won't start until Friday at the earliest and might not even begin until next week. Even the site of the sessions hasn't been definitely set, although they probably will take place at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.
New York was eliminated Monday by the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees' third straight exit in the first round. Owner George Steinbrenner's flight home to Tampa on Tuesday was delayed by weather, and he didn't arrive until late. He was not seen at Legends Field on Wednesday.
Since Steinbrenner said last weekend that he didn't think Torre would remain if the Yankees failed to advance, players have urged the 77-year-old owner to retain the manager who helped New York overcome a 21-29 start and reach the playoffs for the 13th straight year.
Rivera, who turns 38 next month, plans to speak with Torre soon.
"I'm an optimist, so hopefully nothing happens and he stays here," Rivera said.
The pitcher, regarded by many as baseball's greatest closer, wanted to negotiate an extension during spring training, but the Yankees decided to delay talks until after the season. He made $10.5 million this year.
"I'm going to be open to hear all offers," said Rivera, who wants a multiyear contract. "The Yankees had the opportunity and didn't do nothing with it."
A baseball official with knowledge of the team's intentions said the Yankees plan to make contract offers to Rivera, catcher Jorge Posada and slugger Alex Rodriguez before they are allowed to negotiate with other clubs.
I don't see why they're even thinking [about letting Torre go]. I wish he's back, definitely. If you ask me what I would want, I want him back.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Yankees haven't commented publicly on their plans.
Like Rivera, Posada is eligible to become a free agent. Rodriguez can opt out of his record $252 million, 10-year contract to seek another deal. Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte has a player option for $16 million, and New York has a $16 million option on right fielder Bobby Abreu.
Rivera was asked if the Yankees would be his first choice regardless of Torre's status.
"Right now, I can't tell you that," he said. "During spring training a lot of things happened, and I realized then, definitely, this is a business."
Still, it's tough to imagine Rivera in a different uniform.
Headed to the Hall of Fame, the right-hander ranks third on the career list with 443 saves. He got off to a slow start this season but finished 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 30 saves. He also holds the postseason record with 34 saves.
Rivera isn't sure how much longer he wants to pitch, but he's certainly not thinking about retirement yet. He joked that he'll stick around until he can't throw anymore.
"I will tell you this, that I won't stay, I won't play baseball if I won't be able to compete at the level that In know how compete," he said.
If Rivera were to leave, the Yankees might already have his successor in pinstripes: Joba Chamberlain.
Problem is, the rookie sensation with the 99 mph fastball and nasty slider is projected as a starting pitcher, even though he went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 19 relief appearances after he was called up in early August.
Chamberlain was a starter in the minors and college, and New York could definitely use help in its rotation.
"It's kind of hard for me to look back right now and see myself as a starter just because I haven't done it in so long," Chamberlain said. "There's not one that's better than the other and there's not one that's more important than the other. So it's just going to come down to what's better for the team and what's better for me."
Chamberlain said the only big difference between starting and relieving is that he would throw more changeups as a starter.
He'd like to know what his role will be next year as early as possible.
"Just for the mind-set," he said. "Physically, I'm not going to prepare any different."
Rivera said he loved having young teammates like Chamberlain around this season, and the rookie said he learned a lot out in that bullpen.
"I tried to do as much as I could to pick his brain, not about baseball as much as how to handle things," Chamberlain said.
"He's been a staple for a long time. He left a lot of big footsteps to fill, not only as a baseball player so much, but also mostly as a friend."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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