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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.

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."