Stick to the rubber, Mo; stay out of the outfield

I hate to be the spoilsport on this topic, but what the heck, somebody has to. The idea that Mariano Rivera should play center field at least for one inning in one of the Yankees’ final games of this season is absurd.

Even Mariano in his afternoon meeting with with longtime Yankees employees said he did not think he should do it. I mean, when Derek Jeter plays his final game whenever that may be, does anyone expect him to pitch an inning?

We are all aware of Mo’s athletic versatility and that it had been a dream of his to play center field in a big-league game at some point. But that was some time ago. He is 43 years old. True, Mariano shags in the outfield every day during batting practice, but a former major-league center fielder told me recently that shagging in BP does not translate automatically to playing the position in a big-league game.

For fans intrigued by such a possibility, ask yourself if you want the great Rivera to embarrass himself for a sideshow moment in what has been a magnificent and classy career. There was no chance this would happen Thursday night at the sold-out season finale at Yankee Stadium, not with the wild-card situation in the American League still in doubt and the Rays the opponents. Mo was likely to get into the game but in his more familiar role on the mound outs of the bullpen.

Granted, the three-game series at Houston that concludes the Yanks’ season has no significance. It would seem the ideal place for the gimmick of Rivera getting his inning in the outfield without compromising the integrity of the game, although an Astros club that has already lost 108 games may not like having their noses rubbed in it by a grandstand maneuver. One look at the incline in center field at Minute Maid Park should present all the reservations Rivera would need.

Is this the way we want to remember Mo? As a 43-year-old pitcher trying to track down liners running uphill in an unfamiliar yard? God forbid he should get hurt the way he did shagging in Kansas City last year.

I for one want to see him pitch in all three games at Houston, to show the fans there what a true, surefire future Hall of Famer is all about. It is also my hope that Mo put away his pipedream and continue to excel at the position he helped define. If he wants to play center field, plenty of amateur baseball leagues throughout the tri-state area would give Rivera that chance once his retirement as a major leaguer is complete.

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