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Could Mariano Rivera Return This Season? Rehab Doc Likes Chances

NEW YORK (WFAN) -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has insisted all along the target for Mariano Rivera's return is 2013.

"It's all about next year," Cashman said in early May, days after the closer injured his right knee while shagging fly balls at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

But what if "the immortal" one is ready this season? Is that even possible?

Rivera's rehab doctor seems to think so. Dr. Keith Pyne recently told the New York Post that the 42-year-old is "working his butt off" and "itching to get back."

Though the decision will belong to the Yankees, Rivera and renowned surgeon Dr. David Altchek, Pyne said the one-month delay before surgery may have actually helped the timetable for baseball's saves leader.

"This is a very detailed guy and he did everything right (pre-surgery)," Pyne told the Post. "He strengthened, he got range of motion. He was very functional before surgery. I don't want to put a percentage on it, but he reduced recovery time by a lot."

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Surgery to repair Rivera's torn ACL was put on hold until June 12 due to a blood clot in his right calf. He was able to log pre-rehab work on the knee, which also turned out to have a partial tear, not a full one, according to Pyne.

Pyne gushed over the hard-working Rivera, who he called "special" and "in the top 10 percent of athletes I have worked with."

"He's got everything it takes to accomplish that," Pyne said of Rivera returning in 2012. "If I was putting money on it, I would put my money on Mo."

The doctor did admit to the paper, "Right now, he's shut down until next year."

Emphasis on "right now." The five-time World Series champion may have a fighting chance to make his mark this October after all.

Would you be shocked to see Mo return this season? Be heard in the comments below!

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