NEW YORK Mariano Rivera is backing Andy Pettitte.
After completing his $45 million, three-year contract with the New York Yankees on Monday, Rivera said he was impressed with Pettitte for admitting that he used human growth hormone after his name was included in the Mitchell Report.
"The thing that I admire is that he came out and said he did it," Rivera said on a conference call.
Rivera was surprised to hear Pettitte was included last week in the report with Roger Clemens and several others on the Yankees teams that won four World Series titles from 1996-2000.
Pettitte later said he used HGH while he was on the disabled during the 2002 season.
"It was definitely the wrong thing to do," Rivera said.
The Yankees' career saves leader said he spoke with Pettitte after the report was released and understood why the left-hander chose to try HGH. Pettitte said he was trying to hurry his recovery from an elbow injury and help his team.
"I might have done the same thing. Who knows?" Rivera said.
But Rivera also said he had "no idea" any of his teammates were using performance-enhancing drugs and that he was too "naive" to know what HGH was.
The 38-year-old Rivera insisted that the Yankees' legacy was safe even though 11 players from their championship run were included in the Mitchell Report. They included Clemens, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton.
"I don't think that we have to defend anything," Rivera said. "Those years were hard work and a lot of dedication. The whole team was involved, not just two guys."
Rivera said he didn't need to hear from Clemens because he doesn't even know if the right-hander used performance enhancers, but that if the report is true about Clemens and others "the best thing to do is bring it out and put an end to it."
Perhaps the key to the dynasty, Rivera figures the deal he agreed to last month will be his final big league contract. He said the holdup was due to his busy schedule and travel for charity work.
At the start of spring training this year, Rivera said he would test the market if he became a free agent, but he never seriously considered giving up his pinstripes.
"I've been a member of the Yankees for so many years," he said. "I couldn't see myself on another team."
Rivera signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1990 and has only played for them in pro ball. He briefly was a starter before moving to the bullpen and what a switch that turned out to be.
With a bat-breaking cut fastball, Rivera has risen to third on the career saves list with 443, and his 34 saves and 0.77 ERA (minimum 30 innings) are tops in postseason history.
Rivera was 3-4 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 3.15 ERA this season. He is coming off a three-year, $31.5 million contract. His new contract will provide an average salary more than $4 million above what any other reliever currently makes.
With Rivera's deal finalized, the Yankees' efforts to bring back the key free agents from this year's squad is complete.
Jorge Posada signed a $52.4 million, four-year contract and Alex Rodriguez agreed to a 10-year, $275 million deal. The Yankees also exercised their $16 million option on Bobby Abreu's contract, and Pettitte singed a $16 million, one-year deal after mulling retirement.
Rivera said Pettitte wouldn't have a problem with the fans when he takes the mound next year.
"I would think that he would be received normal," Rivera said. "Everybody makes mistakes."
By keeping Rivera, the Yankees can go ahead with their plan to put Joba Chamberlain in the rotation. A rookie last season, Chamberlain quickly impressed the Yankees and earned his way into a spot as Rivera's primary setup man.