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12/17/07 8:34 PM ET

Rivera finalizes three-year pact

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera's wish to finish his career in Yankees pinstripes, the only uniform he has worn in the big leagues, is on its way to coming true.

Rivera and the club formally finalized a three-year, $45 million agreement on Monday. The pact will keep Rivera, a Yankee since 1995 and the most dominant postseason closer of all-time, in New York.

Though he had spoken openly about allowing all 30 teams an even chance at acquiring his services in free agency, Rivera finally put his guard down and admitted that it had all been a bluff.

"I never saw myself on another team," Rivera said. "It's hard to picture myself in another uniform. We owe the respect for the rest of the team. I've been a member of the Yankees for so many years -- I live here and I have my family here. I don't think I could be on another team."

Rivera, who turned 38 in November, becomes baseball's highest-paid closer, earning $15 million per year through the 2010 season. His annual salary surpasses the $10.5 million earned across town by the Mets' Billy Wagner.

Rivera believes that, following his storied path to success, this deal will be the final one.

"Definitely, with this contract, I would think that I will finish my career," Rivera said. "If God has something else for me, I don't know. I just ask the good Lord for opportunities and try to work hard so I can stay away from injuries, and blessings that I don't injure myself. That's all I ask. The rest depends on my teammates."

With Rivera back for the ninth inning, the Yankees have completed an improbable sweep of the key free agents they had hoped to re-sign. New York inked catcher Jorge Posada to a four-year pact last month and finalized deals with third baseman Alex Rodriguez and left-hander Andy Pettitte in December.

"It's important for the team and it's important for us," Rivera said. "Everybody decided to stay with the Yankees, and that's the best. It's great to have that family."

Rodriguez, this year's American League MVP, said recently that Rivera is "obviously someone that we can't live without."

"He's one of a kind and he's so unique in what he does for us. He's such an unbelievable force in our clubhouse," Rodriguez said. "In many ways, he's the voice for a lot of people in there and he means so much -- more so than what he just does on the field. He's very, very special."

Rivera made 67 relief appearances for the Yankees in 2007, compiling a 3-4 record with a 3.15 ERA. He was much stronger after a shaky beginning -- in Rivera's final 59 appearances of the season, he was 2-2 with a 2.23 ERA and converted 30 of 32 save opportunities.

Rivera had expressed interest in negotiating a contract extension during Spring Training, when he was beginning the final year of a three-year contract that paid him $31.5 million. Like with All-Star catcher Posada, the Yankees elected to wait until after the season.

Hot Stove

Posada agreed to his new deal with the Yankees just hours before he could have discussed financial terms with other clubs, while Rivera's contract took more time.

The Yankees received word that Rivera would accept their offer on Nov. 19, after a lengthy delay that was reported -- falsely, Rivera said -- to be dependent on his insistence for a four-year contract. Rivera said Monday that he had never asked for a four-year deal; he had simply been traveling out of the United States and performing charity work at various locations.

"Everything was under control," Rivera said. "It was just a matter of time."

Rivera has pitched for the Yankees since 1995, compiling an AL-record 443 saves in the regular season. The most dominant postseason pitcher of his generation, Rivera owns a Major League-record 34 saves in the playoffs, where he has a 0.77 career ERA -- last updated when Rivera worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the ALDS against Cleveland.

"For me, I just have to play hard, work hard and thank God for the talent," Rivera said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.