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Rivera adds to his legacy as elite closer

| Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera has seen all the histrionics by some closers. It's fine, he said, because it's part of their personalities.

Rivera has his own way of celebrating a big save for the Yankees.

"I go home," he said. "Simple as that. As quick as I finish, I go home."

Rivera went home Sunday night with his 500th save, getting four outs in a 4-2 victory over the New York Mets to become the second major leaguer to reach the milestone. He also got his first career RBI with a bases-loaded walk against Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth.

"I don't know if we'll ever see another Mariano Rivera," manager Joe Girardi said. "I really don't believe we will."

The 39-year-old reliever has helped the Yankees win four World Series and 10 division titles.

"As far as I'm concerned, the success that this organization has had over the last 14 years, he's probably the biggest reason," Andy Pettitte said. "I don't think anybody gives enough credit to how hard it is to close games out."

Rivera has saved 59 of Pettitte's 222 wins, a major league record for a closer-starter combo and just one in a slew of staggering numbers from the right-hander's career. Sunday was his 110th save of four outs or more — an unheard of total with today's closers rarely required to pitch more than an inning. He has blown just 13 regular-season save chances since 2005 and 61 in 15 major-league seasons.

Rivera also has proven himself on baseball's biggest stage, going 8-1 with a 0.77 ERA and a major league-record 34 saves in the postseason.

"It's pretty amazing what he's been able to do with pretty much a fastball," catcher Jorge Posada said. "It just tells you how well he locates his pitches, and his demeanor never changes, going good or bad. He's always the same, very competitive. Best in the business."

The Yankees gave Rivera a $45 million, three-year contract after the 2007 season. He had shoulder surgery Oct. 7 but has showed no signs of slowing down, lowering his ERA to 2.93 with the 1.1 scoreless innings against the Mets. He is 1-0 with six saves and a 1.23 ERA in his last seven games.

Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman, who entered Monday night's game against the Mets with 571 saves, was hoping to congratulate Rivera.

"I'm a fan of the game, and I've been a bit in awe of what he's been able to do." Hoffman said. "I've admired a lot of his career, admired it from afar."

Speculation about Rivera's future runs rampant at the end of each season, but the Panamanian isn't interested in retirement speculation or overtaking Hoffman for the saves lead.

Rivera has said repeatedly he's all about helping the Yankees win another World Series.

"To become the greatest closer of all-time in the largest city in the world, under the most pressure and scrutiny that you can have — with one pitch, to boot — it's just amazing," general manager Brian Cashman said.

And it almost didn't happen. There was some debate before the 1996 season about whether Derek Jeter was ready to become the everyday shortstop, and the Yankees considered trading Rivera to the Seattle Mariners for Felix Fermin. They concluded Jeter was ready.

"We thought we didn't need a shortstop," Cashman said. "We did not know we were sitting on a Hall of Famer."

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