Rivera talks about impeding free agency

TAMPA, Fla. -- As the Yankees prepared to start spring
training without Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera talked about the
possibility of not being with the team a year from now.

"The Yankees always give me the respect. When
the time comes, if they want me back, they want me back. Otherwise,
I'm not going to sit in my house crying. I have to move on."
-- Mariano Rivera

Rivera will get $10.5 million this season, the option year of a
contract paying him $31.5 million over three seasons. He is
eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.

"If they want to talk, we're willing to listen," Rivera said
Monday following a pre-spring training workout. "But I'm going to
bring nothing to the table. I'm just going to focus on what I have
to do and see what happens. I have a contract for this year. That's
what matters. All I have to do is focus on this season. I just have
to worry about being able to help the team as much as I can."

Rivera has spent his entire career with the Yankees, just like
Williams, helping the team win four World Series titles and six AL
pennants. The outfielder said Friday he is leaning against
accepting New York's offer of a minor league contract.

"Bernie was one of the big guys on the team," Rivera said.
"You have to understand this is a business. I would love to have
Bernie back, but who am I to say I want Bernie back? Definitely
it's going to be strange not seeing Bernie, but we have to move on
and we have to continue."

Rivera was sidelined from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22 last year because
of a muscle strain near his right elbow. The 37-year-old
right-hander finished 5-5 with 34 saves and an 1.80 ERA.

On Monday, three days before the start of official workouts,
Rivera threw for 15 minutes on flat ground.

"I'm not concerned at all," he said. "My body is ready to go.
I'm feeling good. I've been throwing for a little bit. I can't wait
to go to spring training."

In addition to Rivera, Jorge Posada is eligible for free agency
after this season. In addition, third baseman Alex Rodriguez can
opt out of his record $252 million, 10-year contract after the
World Series, giving him leverage to force an extension.

"I know that I have one more year, that is this year," Rivera
said. "After that year, I don't know what's going to happen.
Definitely I want to finish my career here, but if they don't give
the respect that I deserve, I have to move on.

"The Yankees always give me the respect," Rivera added. "When
the time comes, if they want me back, they want me back. Otherwise,
I'm not going to sit in my house crying. I have to move on."