When Mariano Rivera tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Thursday, he was carted off the field, taken to a hospital in Kansas City, placed in a magnetic resonance imaging tube, and told to stay off his feet as much as possible for several days.
Ray Stubblebine/ReutersBut since then, a blood clot developed in his right calf, Rivera said Wednesday, and was treated successfully with medication. He still plans to have surgery on the knee within two weeks, and remains confident that he will pitch again next year.“I am going to work hard,” said Rivera, the Yankees’ closer since 1997 and the major leagues’ career saves leader. “That, I can guarantee you. I will work hard to come back as soon as I can.”Rivera said the clot was discovered during follow-up examinations Monday in New York when he reported pain in his right calf, below the damaged knee. Tests revealed the clot, so Rivera remained overnight in the hospital. He was treated with blood-thinning medication, which he said eliminated the danger.But for a few agonizing hours, he was not worried about pitching again at all.“I was scared,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “I was scared because I never hear good things about blood clots. I was scared, definitely. When I heard that, I take it like: ‘O.K., what do we have to do? We have to go to the doctor, and I might have to stay there several days? Find me a room.’ ”According to Dr. Craig Levitz, the chief of orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., blood clots are not uncommon for older patients who tear knee ligaments. Rivera is 42, and qualifies as an older patient.Levitz, who has not been involved in Rivera’s treatment, said a clot could develop in an older patient whose body remained motionless for extended periods, as when someone tears a knee ligament. Younger patients tend to have better circulation, so when they lie down to elevate the injured knee, clots are less likely to form.“The clot is almost certainly a result of the tear,” said Levitz, who estimated he had surgically repaired 4,000 torn knee ligaments. “It’s not surprising at all, but once you know it’s there, it’s very treatable and more of an inconvenience.”Levitz also said that clots in the calf are far preferable to clots that form above the knee, which can be very dangerous.Rivera said the surgery to repair his knee had not yet been scheduled because he must first regain the full range of motion, which is typical for patients who tear knee ligaments. Before he has the operation, Rivera will go off the blood-thinning medication for 24 hours, then go back on it afterward.Levitz said that the blood-thinning agents might make Rivera’s initial recovery period more challenging because there will be more blood in the knee joint, but that the situation would not affect his long-term recovery.“His rehab will be a little harder in the first couple of weeks,” Levitz said, “but eventually he will be fine. He should be able to make a complete recovery. He’s way better off having this surgery than something on his shoulder.”Rivera’s agent, Fernando Cuza, was the first to mention a complication with Rivera’s injury, but he did not reveal the specific problem. When Rivera was asked in the news conference what the complication was, he said: “I just feel old. Working with these crutches is no fun at all.”Rivera, who hurt the knee while shagging fly balls, said the next day that he would not retire after such a freakish injury. On his arrival at spring training in February, Rivera hinted that he might retire after this season. He said he had made his decision but would not reveal it then.But on Wednesday, Rivera said he had been thinking he would return anyway, regardless of the injury.“I was leaning towards coming back,” he said. “I was feeling strong on that. It’s hard. I was waiting how I feel with the traveling and the games. It’s the same. The traveling, I hate it. The playing, I love it.”In Rivera’s absence, the Yankees turned to the eighth-inning man Dave Robertson as their closer. On Tuesday night, Robertson earned his first save of the season in dramatic fashion, securing the final out with the bases loaded.Rivera said he watched it all from his couch, and was as nervous as a fan.“I sweat,” he said. “I was yelling: ‘Throw the ball like this! Throw the ball like that!’ I think he heard me.”