Mariano Rivera at Yankees camp

Updated: February 18, 2011, 8:53 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Call off the Mariano watch. The New York Yankees closer has arrived.

Mariano Rivera arrived in camp Thursday morning after a three-day delay while tending to his ailing family back home in New York.

"I'm here and I'm ready to work," a fit-looking Rivera said. "I feel great, but I haven't done any throwing yet. Talk to me later after I throw."

Rivera's absence was authorized by the Yankees after the closer reported that his wife and three boys were down with the flu and needed his presence at home. Rivera normally does not begin throwing until later in camp anyway and generally pitches no more than 10 innings in spring training. So far, he has missed only some pitchers' fielding drills.

"I know what it takes [to get ready]. I know what I have to accomplish," Rivera said. "You earn that respect when you give everything you have, and that's what I have done. It's not right to talk about myself, but that's what I have done all my career. If I needed time to do something, it's not because I wanted to do it. It's because I needed to do it. And now I'm here, and ready to work."

Rivera said it is getting tougher to leave his family each year.

"It gets a little hard ... harder and harder," Rivera said. "One of my kids, he was crying. A lot of people don't see that part of the game. You have to leave your family. I've missed a lot of things. Again, we have to find a way to work it out and have that balance."

Rivera, who turned 41 in November, will get some help in the bullpen this year from the acquisition of Rafael Soriano, who saved an AL-leading 45 games as the Tampa Bay Rays closer last year but will serve as the Yankees set-up man, theoretically sparing Rivera from having to get any four-out saves.

"I don't know about that, it's not my call," Rivera said. "But whatever is good for the team is what we have to do. We have a lot of young guys in our bullpen and also, we have experience. So I think we have a lot of strength in our 'pen."

Rivera, who saved 33 games and posted a 1.80 ERA in 2010, signed a new two-year contract in the offseason that will keep him a Yankee until just before his 44th birthday.

"I still have the love and the passion for the game," he said. "I believe that I can do it one more time. It's going to be an interesting year."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Follow Wallace on Twitter »  Chat archive »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE MLB HEADLINES