Closer finalizes three-year, $45 million deal with Yankees

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera is backing Andy Pettitte.

After completing his $45 million, three-year contract with the
New York Yankees on Monday, Rivera said he was impressed with
Pettitte for admitting that he used human growth hormone after his
name was included in the Mitchell report.

"The thing that I admire is that he came out and said he did
it," Rivera said on a conference call.

Rivera was surprised to hear Pettitte was included last week in
the report with Roger Clemens and several others on the Yankees
teams that won four World Series titles from 1996-2000.

Pettitte later said he used HGH while he was on the disabled list
during the 2002 season.

"It was definitely the wrong thing to do," Rivera said.

The Yankees' career saves leader said he spoke with Pettitte
after the report was released and understood why the left-hander
chose to try HGH. Pettitte said he was trying to hurry his recovery
from an elbow injury and help his team.

"I might have done the same thing. Who knows?" Rivera said.

But Rivera also said he had "no idea" any of his teammates
were using performance-enhancing drugs and that he was too
"naive" to know what HGH was.

The 38-year-old Rivera insisted that the Yankees' legacy was
safe even though 11 players from their championship run were
included in the Mitchell report. They included Clemens, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton.

"I don't think that we have to defend anything," Rivera said.
"Those years were hard work and a lot of dedication. The whole
team was involved, not just two guys."

Rivera said he didn't need to hear from Clemens because he
doesn't even know if the right-hander used performance enhancers,
but that if the report is true -- about Clemens and others -- "the
best thing to do is bring it out and put an end to it."

Perhaps the key to the dynasty, Rivera figures the deal he
agreed to last month will be his final big league contract. He said
the holdup was due to his busy schedule and travel for charity

At the start of spring training this year, Rivera said he would
test the market if he became a free agent, but he never seriously
considered giving up his pinstripes.

"I've been a member of the Yankees for so many years," he
said. "I couldn't see myself on another team."

Rivera signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1990
and has only played for them in pro ball. He briefly was a starter
before moving to the bullpen -- and what a switch that turned out to

With a bat-breaking cut fastball, Rivera has risen to third on
the career saves list with 443, and his 34 saves and 0.77 ERA
(minimum 30 innings) are tops in postseason history.

Rivera was 3-4 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 3.15 ERA this
season. He is coming off a three-year, $31.5 million contract. His
new contract will provide an average salary more than $4 million
above what any other reliever currently makes.

With Rivera's deal finalized, the Yankees' efforts to bring back
the key free agents from this year's squad is complete.

Jorge Posada signed a $52.4 million, four-year contract and Alex Rodriguez agreed to a 10-year, $275 million deal. The Yankees also
exercised their $16 million option on Bobby Abreu's contract, and
Pettitte singed a $16 million, one-year deal after mulling

Rivera said Pettitte wouldn't have a problem with the fans when
he takes the mound next year.

"I would think that he would be received normal," Rivera said.
"Everybody makes mistakes."

By keeping Rivera, the Yankees can go ahead with their plan to
put Joba Chamberlain in the rotation. A rookie last season,
Chamberlain quickly impressed the Yankees and earned his way into a
spot as Rivera's primary setup man.