Mariano Rivera hints at retirement

TAMPA, Fla. -- Adding to a mystery that will last the whole season, 42-year-old Mariano Rivera arrived at spring training on Monday and said he knows if he will retire at the end of the season. However, he said he won't tell anyone.

"I know now," the New York Yankees closer said. "I just don't want to tell you. I know now. I will let you guys know when I think I should tell you."

Rivera broke the all-time saves record last year and is regarded by most as the greatest closer in the game's history. He will make $17 million this season in the final year of a two-year deal and said he would like to leave before his skills deteriorate.

"I don't want to be seen like that," Rivera said. "It is important for me to leave the game on top if God allows me to do that, just finish on top, knowing I did what I was called to do."

Rivera is still on top of his game. He had a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves last season. Rivera said that another great year wouldn't change his mind.

"Even if I save 90 games," he said. "If they want to pay this much money ... anything."

Rivera showed up a day later than when pitchers and catchers were due to report. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that since it was Rivera he could show up whenever he wanted to.

"We will see him at some point but the Mariano Watch, don't worry about it,'' Cashman had said on Sunday. "He knows what he needs to do. He'll get his eight innings in the spring, and that's all he needs. He really is amazing. You'll never see anything like that again."

Rivera played catch with fellow reliever Rafael Soriano during the Yankees' first workout of the year. When asked whether he was as excited as he was in his first big league camp almost 20 years ago, Rivera responded: "Believe it."

"You come here to compete," Rivera said. "I love to compete. I don't come here for a free ride. I'm come here to get ready: the playoffs, the World Series, that's the goal."

If he is retiring, Rivera said he is uninterested in being honored at ballparks around the country. He said he probably will reveal his plans at the end of the season.

"I don't know," Rivera said. "I will tell you that in October, maybe."

Rivera looked the same as always at the first workouts Monday. He said he feels good.

"I'm like one of those Bunny things," Rivera said, referencing the Energizer Bunny. "I just love the game. I don't know guys. You guys are asking me too many questions already. I'm done with you guys."

During the session with a small group of reporters, Rivera said he didn't mention the term retirement. But he clearly has been thinking about it and made his decision a few weeks ago.

"It is hard when you have the ability to continue and you have to make that decision," Rivera said. "It is hard. For me, baseball is not everything.

"There are a lot of more things than baseball. I've been blessed. I've had a great career, but at the same time there are a lot of other things to do."

But one thing he won't be doing is hanging on too long.

"I won't be there dragging my arm to pitch," Rivera said. "I'm not going to start pitching with my left arm. I want to be able to compete."

Rivera had an eventful offseason, undergoing surgery in December to remove polyps from his vocal chords.

"It did scare me," Rivera said. "It did change a lot of things. It shows you how quick you can be gone. How important not to overlook anything. It could be cancer. I was relieved when everything came back negative."

Rivera wasn't able to talk for a week following the operation,

"Not being able to speak, I was going crazy," he said, "but at the same time you appreciate that."

After his playing days, Rivera said he'd be open to being a guest instructor.

"But not in the big leagues," he said. "Again, I think the minors, they really need people to give them time."

Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews and The Associated Press was used in this report.