7/14/2008 03:56:00 PM

Will Francona Enter Sandman In The 9th?

Posted by Mark McCray |

Bryan Hoch/MLB.com:

Terry Francona may be attempting to guard the worst-kept secret in the All-Star Game. Should the American League take a lead into the ninth inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game, Mariano Rivera fully expects to be warmed and ready to close out the contest at Yankee Stadium.

"I would love to -- I definitely would love to," Rivera said on Monday. "I have a feeling, knowing Francona, that he will put me in there if we have the opportunity to close the game."

The 38-year-old Rivera is in the midst of a career campaign for the Yankees, having converted his first 23 save opportunities as he opens a new three-year contract. Even though Francona has a pretty solid option heading to the Bronx from his own club, the ultra-effective Jonathan Papelbon, Rivera seemed to believe the ball for the ninth inning would be all his.

"It's tough, but we're here in Yankee Stadium, and I think I should get a shot," Rivera said.

Rivera said that he had not considered what it might be like to jog to the mound in the ninth inning with World Series home-field advantage on the line.

"I haven't thought about that yet, but I know definitely it is going to be special," Rivera said. "I hope we have the opportunity to be ahead and have the chance to close the game and experience how it is going to be."

"It's an honor to have the opportunity to close this game in Yankee Stadium, which is going to be the last All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium, period," Rivera said. "It's a privilege and a pleasure to do that.

"First of all, it's home. You're talking about the history of baseball, and when you're talking about Yankee Stadium, you have to talk about greatest players that have gone through it, and amazing fights and football games and all the events that took place in Yankee Stadium. But the most important things are all of those championships."

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said that he would not be surprised to see Rivera emerge from the bullpen gates as the evening grew closer toward midnight.

"It'd be fitting," Jeter said. "But I guess that's our job and everyone's in here -- to give him that opportunity. It'd definitely be fitting to see him come out for that ninth inning."


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