NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera reserved a spot on the dugout bench for all of the Yankees' postseason home games, playing the role of a uniformed cheerleader -- one who just happens to be the game's all-time saves leader.

"Part of the team, supporting the guys. That's all I can do," Rivera said during the playoffs.

The Yankees expect he'll be far more active around this time next year. Rivera vowed to return to the mound after having his season cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and manager Joe Girardi sees no reason not to expect the closer to report to Spring Training.

"From watching how he rehabbed and everything that he was going through -- [Rivera] picked up a baseball sooner than he was supposed to and got his hand smacked a little bit -- that would tell me that Mo probably wants to play," Girardi said.

Girardi said that he has not spoken to Rivera since the season ended, but he is well aware of how Rivera aggressively handled his rehab after crumpling on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium on May 3 in pursuit of a batting practice fly ball.


 "It's a decision that I think he'll sit down with his family, evaluate where he is maybe a little bit later in this process and how he feels," Girardi said. "But I don't think that you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you think that you possibly have some interest in coming back."

The Yankees may have reason to nudge Rivera for a decision in the near future. Rafael Soriano excelled in Rivera's absence, logging 42 saves in 46 chances, and may trigger an opt-out clause to forfeit the $14 million he is due in 2013 in hopes of landing a new multiyear deal. Rivera is also set to become a free agent.

Girardi also said that he expects left-hander Andy Pettitte to strongly consider returning to the Yankees in 2013 after a fractured left leg limited the veteran to just 12 regular season starts, plus two more in the postseason.

Pettitte said after the Yankees' elimination in the American League Championship Series that he wanted to take about a month to think about his situation, but that his limited workload had not fully exhausted his competitive desires.

"There's a lot of hunger and fire in him, I know that," Girardi said. "We saw how he pushed himself to get back and to be a postseason and down-the-stretch pitcher for us, going out there where he had 65 pitches, which is not normally something you do at this time of the year.


 "I still think the fire is there, but every year as you get a year older, you have to ask yourself and your family: 'Am I ready to give up eight months of my life?' That's something that he's going to have to ask himself."

Yankees will be cautious in Jeter's recovery

NEW YORK -- When Derek Jeter fractured his left ankle in New York's loss to the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the immediate concern was how the Yankees would fill the void for the remainder of the postseason. Now that they've been eliminated, the focus has been shifted to 2013.

Jeter underwent surgery on Saturday to repair the fracture. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C., who estimated Jeter will be fully recovered in four to five months.

If the estimate holds true, Jeter will be at full health in time for most of Spring Training next March. Should he fully recover in four months -- Feb. 20 marks exactly four months from the date of surgery -- he will be available for the team's entire Grapefruit League exhibition schedule.

Jeter led the AL with 216 hits this season, silencing any doubts that his age has affected his production. General manager Brian Cashman said following Jeter's surgery that the Yankees fully expect the 38-year-old to enter next season as their starting shortstop, sentiments which manager Joe Girardi spoke about on Wednesday in a news conference at Yankee Stadium.

"I think there's always a concern, but really in our hearts we believe he's going to be ready for us," Girardi said. "We might have to hold him back a little bit; he may want to do too much because he always tells me that he feels great, so that's something that I'm going to have to evaluate."

Girardi said that the team will be cautious with Jeter's recovery, as any attempt to expedite the process could potentially lead to setbacks. He was fitted for a splint and crutches following the procedure.

"I think whenever a guy goes through something, there are some concerns," Girardi said. "Sometimes a player can rush it and tweak something else, because he's rushing it and he's anxious to get out there and he's tired of being on crutches, or however Derek's going to be for a while."

Cashman said Saturday that the Yankees have no plans to find a potential replacement for Jeter this offseason, and they will turn to backups should his recovery linger through the start of the regular season. New York turned to Jayson Nix in Game 2 of the ALCS and Eduardo Nunez started Games 3 and 4.

"I haven't looked at that at this stage," Cashman said on Saturday. "We do have Eduardo Nunez, we have Jayson Nix [as backups]. So it's not something we've focused on, and I wouldn't think that that's something I would gravitate to."

The Yankees have expressed confidence in Nunez's abilities as a shortstop -- should Jeter's tenure come to a close in the near future, Nunez would be a leading candidate to replace him if the Yankees re-sign Nunez long term.

Nunez finished 3-for-11 in the 2012 postseason -- including a ninth-inning home run off Justin Verlander in Game 3 -- but his glove continues to be a liability. But with time to improve, Girardi said Wednesday that Nunez holds a lot of potential.

"It's really hard to predict exactly what a guy's role is going be right now, because we don't know who's going to be on the team, but I think [Nunez] has something to offer us and I think we saw that during the Detroit series," Girardi said. "There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, there's a guy who has the ability I believe to be a good shortstop. He has a lot to offer."

Sabathia to make precautionary visit to orthopedist

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has yet to see Dr. James Andrews, a renowned orthopedist who specializes in arm injuries, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi does not expect the evaluation to uncover any elbow issues that will cause Sabathia to miss Spring Training or next season.

The visit is more precautionary, according to Girardi, who pointed to the left-hander's success at the end of the season as a reason to believe there are no major problems stemming from elbow inflammation that landed Sabathia on the disabled list in August. An MRI taken after New York's American League Championship Series loss to the Tigers reportedly showed a bone spur in Sabathia's left elbow, but the club believes he pitched through it since 2008.

"You're always concerned that maybe it's more than you think it is," Girardi said. "I think that's always your biggest concern. But you think about both the games he pitched against Baltimore were pretty good. The start before that was pretty good. September was pretty good. That makes me feel like it's something that we're going to get through and we're going to have him in Spring Training."

The Tigers knocked Sabathia around for six runs -- five earned -- over 3 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALCS, but he was strong before that, pitching at least eight innings in his five prior starts, including two AL Division Series wins against the Orioles.

Sabathia also spent time on the disabled list with a groin strain, contributing to his lowest innings total since 2006, when he was with the Indians.

Visits to Dr. Andrews often spell bad news -- he counts Joba Chamberlain among his clients for Tommy John surgery -- but Girardi is confident that Sabathia's ability to pitch successfully after his DL stint means there is little cause for concern.

"[Sabathia] pitched very well for us down the stretch, which made me feel pretty good about what's going on," Girardi said, "but you know at times, people have to be evaluated to be sure everything's OK."