DENVER -- Mariano Rivera won’t shy away from shagging fly balls on the outfield grass in Kansas City.
The New York Yankees closer plans to return to the very scene of where he tore the ACL in his right knee a year ago when the team plays in Kansas City this weekend. He vows to even chase down fly balls again, just as he always does because he enjoys the camaraderie with teammates during pregame batting.
"Nothing is going to change. I’m going to do what I love to do," Rivera said before the Yankees played the Colorado Rockies on a damp and dreary Wednesday. "Yes, I got hurt like this. But I’m going to enjoy it. It’s nothing to regret."
Rivera caught his leg on the field in Kansas City last May and his knee buckled. He fell into the outfield wall and then to the ground, grimacing in pain.
But as he was carted off, Rivera smiled and waved to the crowd. He said he did that simply because he didn’t want fans to remember him grimacing -- just in case he couldn’t come back.
"I mean, what else are you going to do besides crying," said the 43-year-old Rivera, who was presented a check by the Rockies for his foundation before the game. "I just want to make sure that people don’t see me as going down that way, have that in mind. That would be the last thing they would see of Mariano. I didn’t want to see that."
Instead, they’re seeing vintage Rivera, converting all 11 save chances this season. Never could he have envisioned coming back in this type of elite form so fast.
Then again, this is Rivera, whose 619 saves are the most saves in major league history.
He has no fear returning to Kansas City, either. Rivera will reminisce about the accident with fellow reliever David Robertson as he stands in the outfield, tracking down fly balls.
Once in Kansas City, Rivera will seek out the doctor who treated him that day. He didn’t happen to catch his name -- Royals physician Dr. Vincent Key was the one who diagnosed his torn ACL -- but he promised Rivera a barbecue dinner and Rivera fully intends on making him pay up.
"We’ll stop at a place he said was good," Rivera said. "I’m just going to have the same fun that I have been having. The same fun I’ve always had. That’s not going to put me down or say, ‘You know what? I don’t want to be here.’ I want to be there. I want to be there and to enjoy, to see the doctor that took me to the hospital and say, ‘Thank you.’ I want that.
"It’s not to feel sorry. It’s to have joy, because I’m still doing what I love to do," he added.
Rivera doesn’t think he’s quite at 100 percent yet, but he’s getting closer. He thinks he should be back to his customary dominant self -- as if he’s not already -- by the middle of the season.