(Reuters) - Baseball all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera will retire from the game after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees pitcher said on Saturday.
With his family and New York team mates looking on Rivera told a news conference at the Yankees spring training site in Tampa, Florida, this would be his last season.
“I have just a few bullets left,” the future Hall of Famer told reporters. “I am going to use them well.”
The 12-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion holds Major League Baseball’s career record for saves in both the regular season (608) and postseason (42).
“He is irreplaceable,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “You will never see that again. He is the greatest of all time.”
No other pitcher has appeared in as many postseason games (96) as Rivera, whose 0.70 earned run average for the postseason made him the most feared closer in baseball.
The Panamanian born pitcher, 43, said he hoped to go out with another title for the Yankees with whom he has played all 18 years of a Major League career that began in 1995.
“The last game I hope will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series,” he said. “Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition.”
Rivera had hinted for months this would be his final season, and Saturday’s news conference gave him the forum to make it official.
“It’s not too easy when you come to a decision like this, but I would like to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to wear the pinstripes uniform that I have worn proudly for so many years through good times, great times and times of learning processes,” he said.
“It has been wonderful.”
Rivera was expected to pitch an inning in New York’s exhibition against the Atlanta Braves later on Saturday.
The appearance would be his first in a game since April 30, 2012. He tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice a few days later and underwent surgery in June.
“If I would’ve finished the season last year, I would have retired last year,” Rivera said. “But I didn’t want to leave that way. I wanted to give everything and I felt like I still had something left. This year, I felt like I knew what I needed to do.”
The Yankees signed Rivera to a one-year, $10 million contract for 2013 and the upcoming season is expected to be a farewell tour of road games for the highly respected Rivera.
He will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Editing by Tom Pilcher