© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

02/23/12 2:49 PM EST

Steinbrenner: Mo 'obviously a lifelong Yankee'

Team would welcome closer back should he choose to continue

TAMPA, Fla. -- If closer Mariano Rivera wants to remain a Yankee beyond the upcoming season when his current contract expires, he certainly will be welcome back, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told MLB.com in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday.

"He's obviously a lifelong Yankee," Steinbrenner said in his office overlooking George M. Steinbrenner Field. "When he decides to retire someday -- whenever that may be -- we all hope he's going to be wearing the pinstripes. No doubt about that.

"If he were inclined [to return], we absolutely would be talking to him about coming back. Yes, of course."

Rivera, the all-time leader with 603 regular-season saves and 42 more in the playoffs, said he has made a decision about his future, but doesn't want to publicly divulge it yet. Rivera signed a two-year, $30 million contract as a free agent after the 2010 season.

Rivera also evidently has not told the Yankees.

Steinbrenner, since he took over control of the club from his late father in 2009, has had a steadfast policy about negotiating contract extensions during the season. He said he hasn't discussed the matter with the now 42-year-old Rivera, nor does he intend to.

"I have no plans to sit down with Mariano," Steinbrenner said. "I want him focused on this year. I'm focused on this year. I have no plans to have a conversation with him. We have enough things to worry about right now. At some point, I'm sure we'll talk. I don't know when that will be. I think he's focused on the task ahead as well."

Steinbrenner said he's bullish on the season and the Yankees' chances of making the postseason for the 17th time in the past 18 years. The Yankees last won the World Series in 2009 and have won it all five times since Rivera joined the club in 1995.

"I am excited. I'm excited about the starting pitching," Steinbrenner said, referring to deals in the offseason that netted the Yankees right-handed starters Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. "I'm excited about the whole team. Our starting pitching did well last year. For the most part, we stayed healthy, which definitely helps, but I think we've definitely improved the rotation. There's going to be no easy way to win this division [the American League East], that's for sure."

Steinbrenner also said he expects third baseman Alex Rodriguez to "rebound" from an injury-plagued 2011 season, during which his numbers slipped to a .276 batting average, 16 homers and 62 RBIs in only 99 games.

"What do I expect from A-Rod? The same thing I expect every year. He's a professional," Steinbrenner said. "Nobody works harder at drills, staying in shape and trying to sharpen his skills. You never know how anything is going to play out, but he's going to come ready to play, you can bet on that. I expect a rebound from him, absolutely."

As Rivera perhaps looks toward the end of his career, Steinbrenner said he was saddened as well by the retirement of catcher Jorge Posada, another member of the Core Four, who was with the team through all the championships. Shortstop Derek Jeter and left-hander Andy Pettitte are the others. Pettitte retired after the 2010 season and Jeter is under contract through at least '13.

"It was tough," Steinbrenner said about Posada retiring. "He's another lifelong Yankee, and one of my dad's favorites. He was a warrior, as my dad used to say. I can only imagine that it's an incredibly tough decision when you've done one thing for your entire life and you love it so much. I know it was tough for my dad. The last thing he ever wanted to do was retire."

Unlike what seems to be pending with Rivera right now, Steinbrenner said the possibility of returning for a 15th season was never discussed with Posada.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.