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SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Closing pitcher Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Rivera was credited with the save, the 41st of the season and 600th of his career. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Mariano Rivera Might Actually Get to Play Center Field One Day

With Mariano Rivera reaching the 600-save milestone on Tuesday and poised to tie Trevor Hoffman on the all-time list any day now, this week has turned into something of a Mariano Rivera Appreciation Week. Rivera's name has been everywhere, from lighter pieces about how the Yankees came to use "Enter Sandman" as his entrance music, to more in-depth ones, like Joe Posnanski's smart look at how the introduction of the save rule has changed the sport. But it also gave the Yankees beat writers a chance to ask Joe Girardi about something Mariano Rivera has wanted to do for a long time: play center field.

We've long heard that Rivera wants to get into a game as a center fielder, even for just one out, just as we've long heard that he's naturally athletic enough to do so without embarrassing himself. And it sounds like, under the right circumstances, Girardi would actually consider it.

Via the LoHud Yankees Blog:

"I'll think about that when he tells me he's near the end," Girardi said. "It's something I would definitely think about. That'll get me in trouble, won't it?" 

He's even got something of a plan:

"Maybe I'd try to do it for one hitter," Girardi said. "A guy who hits a lot of ground balls, strikes out a lot... And there would be nobody on base where he'd have to make a throw."

Honestly, we can't imagine this not happening at some point, particularly if Girardi is still the manager when Rivera is ready to call it a career. After all, if this is truly the top item on Rivera's big-league bucket list, it wouldn't be all that difficult for the Yankees to accommodate him, particularly if it's only for a batter or two.

Those worrywarts at the Times were quick to point out the danger in playing Rivera out of position:

The risk of a possible injury and the potential that Rivera might make a costly mistake make it hard to find the right conditions for it to happen. It would have to be a meaningless game, but the Yankees almost never have any of those. 

Which raises the question: When would be the best time for this happen? If they waited until the end of Rivera's final season, they'd run the risk of trying it in the middle of a pennant race. (Also, though there may never be a good time for Rivera to get hurt, it would be especially devastating if he injured himself chasing down a fly ball on the eve of the postseason.) So maybe it would have more to do with the score of a given game than the time of year. Prediction: As soon as Rivera decides he's going to retire (or as soon as his manager thinks his retirement is a possibility), you'll see him play a half-inning in center during the first Yankees blowout victory. It's the least they could do, isn't it?

Photo: Otto Greule Jr/2011 Getty Images