NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera has come a long way since giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings as a 25-year-old in his Major League debut 16 years and two days ago.

For one, that 10-0 loss came against the California Angels. And Rivera was a starter, not the game's dominant closer.

Flash forward to Wednesday, 572 saves -- and yes, even 75 wins -- later. Rivera emerged from the Yankee Stadium bullpen at the end of the eighth inning to his trademark "Enter Sandman" entrance music. In a non-save situation against the Blue Jays, the 17-year Yankee veteran preserved a 7-3 win in his 1,000th career appearance, a 12-pitch outing, becoming the 15th pitcher ever to reach the plateau, and the first to do it with one team.

"You have to be old to do that," the 41-year-old Rivera joked. "But it's a blessing, being with the same team and being able to do that, not too often you see. Most important thing is that we won."

Rivera recalled his big league debut Wednesday, saying he was excited for the opportunity and that he never questioned if he belonged.

An eventual five World Series rings, a World Series MVP Award and a 2.22 career ERA would prove that he did.

And all because of one pitch.

"It just tells you how great he is at his trade, because he's really never fooled people," manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera's signature cutter. "It wasn't like you're looking for a fastball and you get a changeup. Or you're looking for a fastball and you get a curveball. Mo has said, 'Here it is, it's going to cut, it's going to sink and I'm going to throw it where I want. And try to do something with it.' And I can't think of any pitcher that's really ever done that."

General manager Brian Cashman said he was at a loss of words praising someone who has set an impossible standard at his position.

"Every aspect of what he's done is incredible," Cashman said. "Again, when you simplify it to he's a one-pitch pitcher, coming from a small fishermen village in Panama, to have this type of success in the biggest city of the world -- one of the biggest cities of the world -- it's incredible. And he's that great a guy at the same time. He hasn't changed; he's the same person he was when he signed. ... Just a rare person."

Rivera said he planned on celebrating the milestone by going to church.

When asked if the idea of 1,000 appearances was hard to believe, Rivera asked the assembled media members what they thought.

"It's pretty hard to believe," one reporter replied.

"Well it is," Rivera said. "Because again, you've got to have the right combination ... the organization that was willing to keep you, and you've got to do your job and take care of yourself.

"All of that has to be in place. And thank God that He helped me with all that, support of the family and all that, my wife. And with that, you just have to be thankful to the Lord, being able to play with so many greats, great players, and what else you can say?"