Clock ticks louder on Yankees' Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte partnership

TAMPA, Fla. -- One aspect of Mariano Rivera’s last trip around the track this summer that will not be so visible is the private moments he will share with Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte.

The three go back in the Yankees organization to 1992.

So when they suggest they’re “more than teammates” … well, there are a lot of years under the bridge to back them up.

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“It’s kind of like brothers,” Rivera said. “We grew up together. We pull for the same goal every year, day-in and day-out.

“It doesn’t matter what the situation was. We always were there for each other.”

Jeter, who returned to Grapefruit League action Saturday and spoke in the clubhouse in the fifth inning as Rivera made his return to the mound, used the same word.

“They’re like brothers,” he said of Rivera and Pettitte. “We’ve been through pretty much everything, I think, that you can go through on a baseball field in 21 seasons, since 1992.”

Jeter acknowledged that Rivera let him in on his plans to retire a year ago following the 2012 season. So when the closer hurt his knee and was lost for the season after last April, then worked toward a 2013 comeback, Jeter still figured Rivera would play only one more season.

Rivera confirmed that to Jeter and others earlier this spring. Manager Joe Girardi said Rivera came into his office for a talk a week to 10 days ago.

“It’s great that he’s coming to peace with what he wants to do and can let everyone know,” Jeter says. “Now he can enjoy the season.

“It’s going to be a special year for him. I’m happy for him.”

Said Pettitte: “We just have a special relationship. I don’t know how to explain it.

“I think our minds all work alike as far as the commitment we have to this organization and to this game.”

With Jorge Posada having retired following the 2011 season, the once “Core Four” of the Yankees is down to Rivera, Jeter and Pettitte. And the clock is ticking quickly on all of them.

Jeter, due $17 million this year, has a player option for 2014 worth $8 million (or a $3 million buyout). He turns 39 in June.

Pettitte, 40, is signed to a one-year, $12 million deal for 2013.

“It’s been a blessing for me to play with men like Andy and Derek and many others,” Rivera said. “I can’t be more grateful to be a part of those guys.

“I don’t consider them my teammates. I consider them my family.”

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