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Mariano Rivera says he could return to pitch for Yankees by September

Once thought to be lost for at least this season, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera now says his goal is to return from an ACL injury this September. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in a freak May accident, speculation ensued that the Yankee closer's storied career could be over. Now, Rivera says that his "goal" is to return this year. His target is September, he told ESPN Radio's Michael Kay in an interview Monday.

“That’s my goal,” Rivera said, according to MLB.com. “Definitely, that’s my goal. I’m not thinking about it because if it doesn’t happen, I will be disappointed. So I’m taking it day by day. I’m working hard and doing what I’m supposed to do. I don’t want to put something in my mind."

“I want to make sure that I do my things first. That’s what I’m doing, that’s the way I’m thinking. Day by day, positive, optimism. Whatever the Lord will allow to happen, that will happen.”

Last week, the New York Post's Joel Sherman reported that Rivera could return this year. Rivera's rehab doctor told the Post that Rivera was "working his butt off," and that Rivera “will be in the best position to accomplish that goal [pitching this year]. He’s got everything it takes to accomplish that. ... If I was putting money on it, I would put my money on Mo.”

Still, the Yankees are operating under the assumption that Rivera will not pitch until next year. Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the Post last week that "he's out" for 2012.

Rivera, 42, injured himself shagging batting-practice fly balls in Kansas City on May 3. A blood clot in his leg prevented surgery until June 12, but he has progressed quickly in his rehab since. Rivera was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and five saves this season before his injury.

“I’m working. I’m feeling good,” Rivera told Kay. “That’s all I can tell you. I feel good and the therapy is great. Everything is good. You have to continue working hard and wait to get on the field.”

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