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Rivera's status uncertain
10/11/2004 10:18 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera's availability for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series is uncertain, as the All-Star closer is in Panama, dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Two family members were electrocuted in Rivera's pool at his home in Panama on Saturday, the same day that the Yankees advanced to the ALCS with a win against the Twins at the Metrodome. Rivera learned of the situation after the game, tempering the celebration.

Victor Dario Avila, a cousin of Rivera's wife, Clara, was electrocuted after trying to rescue his 14-year-old son, also named Victor, while cleaning the pool at Rivera's home.

Rivera and his wife flew to Panama on Sunday night to be with their family, but the pitcher told a local newspaper that he would be back with his team for the start of the Red Sox series, which begins on Tuesday night in the Bronx.

"I have to comply with my family obligations, and I will return to New York on Tuesday," Rivera told the newspaper La Prensa after arriving in Panama.

Manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman sounded less optimistic, saying that while Rivera could be back in time for the ALCS opener, they weren't sure of it.

   Mariano Rivera  /   P
Born: 11/29/69
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"I told Mariano at the time this whole thing happened and knowing he would have to go to Panama, 'You do what you need to do and when you get back, obviously we'll welcome you back,'" Torre said. "So if he's here tomorrow, obviously it would be wonderful. If he's not, then we understand that."

Cashman has spoken with Fernando Cuza, Rivera's agent, several times since Saturday regarding Rivera's status. The Yankees have arranged for a private plane to be available for Rivera on Tuesday, when he plans to return to New York following the funeral.

"I think we'll see him here tomorrow night but we're not expecting it. It sounds like that's what's going to happen, but we'll see," Cashman said. "I know he intends to try to be here for tomorrow's game. But does he have to be here for tomorrow's game? No."

The chief of the local fire department, Luis Felipe Caceres, told the Associated Press that the initial investigation indicates that something with an electrical current was "located in the pool or was making contact with the edge of the pool." He said officials were still investigating.

Caceres said the only witness was Denis Ballestero, brother-in-law of Rivera's wife. Ballestero, who also suffered shocks, was released from a hospital and has declined to speak with reporters.

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
Game 1 at New York         NYY 10, BOS 7
Game 2 at New York         NYY 3, BOS 1
Game 3 at Boston Fri. Oct. 15 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Boston Sat. Oct. 16 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Boston Sun. Oct. 17 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at New York Tue. Oct. 19 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at New York Wed. Oct. 20 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary

Should Rivera return in time for the game, he would likely be available to pitch if the Yankees needed him. If he's not available, Tom Gordon would serve as the team's closer.

"I'm always comfortable with him unless he tells me he's not capable," said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. "He'll handle it as good as anybody can handle it. He's a stronger person, not only on the field, but mentally."

"Even though he's here in person, you're not sure where he is emotionally," said Torre when asked if he would have to see where Rivera's head was before handing him the ball. "He's as good as anybody that I've seen that's been able to shut things out, but this thing happened so sudden and so recent that I don't think there's any guarantees.

"I think with Mariano, if he's here, physically tomorrow, he'll say, 'Give me the ball,'" Torre added. "I don't think there's any question. And whether it's 100 percent or 50 percent, it's still going to be pretty (darn) good."

Whether Rivera makes it back for Game 1 or not, the Yankees plan to support their closer in any way possible.

"Ultimately his first priority as we all know is to the family," Cashman said. "What's happening here is secondary to that."

"He's handling it well," said Alex Rodriguez, who talked with Rivera for an hour on the flight home from Minnesota on Saturday night. "It doesn't affect our game, but it certainly puts things in perspective. We love our teammates, and Mariano is such a backbone of the team. It puts the game in perspective."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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