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“You’re talking about somebody who does something that’s never been done,” said Derek Jeter, who had four hits in the game. “It’s not like somebody comes along the next day and does it.”

Jeter said that Rivera has been shagging balls for “20-some years,” at least as long as they’ve known each other. It never crossed the captain’s mind that Rivera would get hurt tracking down a fly ball in batting practice. It’s just something that people had come to accept.

“That’s his conditioning. He’s always shagging balls,” Jeter said. “He’s like a center fielder anyway. It was a freak thing. There’s no other way you can explain it.”

Girardi also defended Rivera’s decision to shag balls in batting practice, pointing out that the reliever hadn’t been on the disabled list since 2003, and reasoning that Rivera may never have become the same shutdown closer if not for all the work he put in before games.

“You have freak injuries, and this is one of them,” Girardi said. “We had a guy carrying a box down the stairs that broke his foot. You can fall off a curb. You have to allow him to be an athlete and a baseball player and have fun out there. I’ve never seen Mo do anything recklessly, or seen Mo dive to try to rob a home run. It’s the way he exercises.”

Girardi was too far away from the outfield wall to see what happened, but he knew that Rivera had sustained a significant injury when he saw players and coaches gathering around him.

Rivera grabbed immediately at his right knee and started rubbing it, stopping only to briefly cover his face with his glove. Harkey and Girardi eventually carried Rivera to a cart brought onto the field, gently setting him into the back with his knee propped up.

“At first I thought he was being funny, but then I realized that he was injured, he was down, and that’s when I really got worried,” said David Phelps, who made his first major league start Thursday night. “There’s nothing I can do but stand there and watch. It’s a miserable feeling.”

The cart rounded the warning track before disappearing up a tunnel, and Rivera didn’t put any weight on his knee when he was helped back into the Yankees‘ clubhouse.

He was examined by Royals associate physician Dr. Joe Noland, but it wasn’t until the MRI exam was taken at KU MedWest that head physician Dr. Vincent Key made the diagnosis.

“I thought it wasn’t that bad, but it’s torn,” Rivera said. “Have to fix it.”

Girardi said that Rivera would be reexamined by the Yankees‘ physicians, but Rivera said that he would rather remain with the team in Kansas City than fly back to New York on Friday.

The Yankees play three more against the Royals before a day off.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen doing something I love to do. And shagging I love to do,” Rivera said. “I’d do the same thing, without hesitation. The reasons why it happen, you have to take it as it is. Fight through it. You know, just have to fight.”

Rivera is only the latest closer to go down with a significant injury this season.

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