NEW YORK (AP) — Mariano Rivera admitted the unthinkable had been a possibility.
The Boston Red Sox offered him a chance to turn in his pinstripes and switch sides in baseball’s fiercest rivalry.
"It was real. It was real," he said Thursday.
While Boston made an offer to the great closer, Rivera accepted a $30 million, two-year contract from the Yankees, the only major league team for which he’s ever played.
He was back at Yankee Stadium, two days after finalizing his deal, to assist with the team’s holiday food drive, in which fans could exchange 30 pounds of food for two tickets to select games next year.
While Rivera didn’t want to leave New York, he was happy to hear from the Red Sox.
"I thanked them, because they took me into consideration," he said. "This is business and the Yankees did the right thing, and I’m here."
Rivera said negotiations never reached the stage of a dialogue with Boston and he never envisioned himself in a Red Sox uniform.
"It definitely would have been different," he said. "I don’t think the Yankees would allow that to happen. I just had to make sure I had a job, and the Yankees did that."
Watching from afar, he’s been impressed by Boston’s two big offseason acquisitions: first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford.
"Those are two good lefties," Rivera said. "It’s going to be an interesting race. It’s going to be a good, good, good season,"
With a cutter that still chops bats into sawdust, especially those of left-handed hitters, the 41-year-old closer has shown no signs of aging other than not pitching as many innings.
An 11-time All-Star, Rivera was 3-3 with a 1.80 ERA and 33 saves in 38 chances this year, boosting his regular-season saves total to 559. That’s second only to Trevor Hoffman’s 601, and in the postseason Rivera has an unequaled 42.
Could this be his final contract?
"I’ve been saying that for, what, the last eight, 10 years? But I’m still here," he said. "I just have to continue to doing what I have to do."
Rivera hasn’t spoken recently with Andy Pettitte, who remains uncertain whether to pitch next year or retire. But he may attempt to talk the left-hander out of retirement.
"He will have the last word, but I might," Rivera said.
Rivera wasn’t upset by the decision of Cliff Lee to sign with Philadelphia rather than accept the Yankees’ offer of more years and dollars.
"You can’t just sit down here and cry," he said. "You have to move on."