Yanks' Mariano Rivera improving

Updated: July 7, 2011, 2:41 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

CLEVELAND -- Tuesday night, New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter talked his way into a ballgame.

Wednesday afternoon, Mariano Rivera sounded like he was trying to talk himself out of one.

The Yankees' incomparable closer, who has been unavailable for the past two nights due to what he has described as "soreness" in the area of his right triceps, said, "It would not be the worst thing" for him to take another night off Wednesday night as the Yankees wrap up a three-game series with the Indians.

Rivera got his wish as the Yankees didn't go to him during their 5-3 loss to the Indians.

Asked if he could pitch Wednesday after a long-toss session in the outfield, Rivera said, "If it is necessary, yes. If it is necessary. But knowing (trainer Gene Monhan) and (manager Joe) Girardi, they might give me another day. I might take another day."

Rivera last pitched in the ninth inning of a game against the Mets on Sunday, blowing a save, and said that he felt the pain afterward. He long-tossed before Tuesday's game in Cleveland but said he was not quite ready to go yet.

Wednesday night, although he declared himself "much better" for the second straight night, he still did not sound as if he was all that eager to pitch again yet. Asked if he would argue that he was good to go, as Jeter had successfully argued with Girardi earlier in the day, Rivera said, "I may tell them that. But it's their decision. It's the manager's decision. No matter what it is, I always want to pitch."

And when asked if the pain was completely gone, Rivera was as elusive as one of his patented cutters. "Well, like I've said before, I will never feel 100 percent," he said. "I don't think I can remember the last time I felt 100 percent. It's not 100 percent. I'd say it's about 95 percent."

But when pinned down to state definitively whether he could or could not pitch Wednesday night, the truth -- or as close to the truth as he was willing to admit -- finally came out.

"It would not be the worst thing if I took another day off," he said.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.

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.
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