SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Injured New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said Friday he’s “working hard” to return to baseball but will not push the pace if it means risking further injury.
During a visit to Saratoga Race Course, baseball’s career saves leader wouldn’t put a timetable on his return but said: “I’m not rushing it.”
“I want to pitch now,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I will come back this year. It’s that 1 percent we have to hope. … But at the same time you cannot push it. If you push it, you’ll make a mistake. Instead of pitching this year, you won’t pitch again next year. I have to be wise and make sure I do the right thing.”
He added that he’s “trying to do my best.”
The 42-year-old was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA with five saves before the injury. He hasn’t pitched since May 3 when he hurt his right knee while running after fly balls in batting practice in Kansas City. Last month, he said he’d like to return to the AL East-leading Yankees this season but general manager Brian Cashman said at the time Rivera was “totally out” for 2012.
On Friday, the third race was named for him and he went to the winner’s circle to address the crowd and present the trophy to the winner. He said he doesn’t bet.
In an interview in the winner’s circle with Richard Migliore, a former jockey who now works for the New York Racing Association, Rivera said his rehabilitation is going well.
“I’d rather be where the team is but unfortunately I can’t,” he said.
The National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame inductions were Friday and Migliore asked if Rivera, with 608 saves, was thinking yet about his own Hall of Fame acceptance speech. The lanky Rivera laughed and said no. Not yet anyway.
“Maybe a few more years,” he said.