TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mariano Rivera walked to the mound as “Enter Sandman” played before the fourth inning, his number 42 matching his age during a game for the first time. Many of the 10,810 fans in Steinbrenner Field rose for a standing ovation, a tribute to the start of what may be the great closer’s final season.
Rivera followed CC Sabathia with a perfect inning during his first spring training appearance of the year and got the victory in New York’s 3-0 split-squad victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
If Rivera’s 18th major league season will be his last, he isn’t saying.
“I always appreciate it,” he said of the ovation. “It don’t matter the situation. I always appreciate it.
When Rivera reported to the Yankees on Feb. 20, he said he had decided on whether he will retire after this season but said he might not reveal it until October. It’s a touchy subject. Asked whether he thought fans rose to their feet because they thought it might be his final year, he smiled, said “I got to go” and walked away after his postgame interview lasted just 95 seconds.
Rivera needed 14 pitches to get through the fourth. He retired Ty Wigginton on a flyout, Luis Montenez on a flyball that center fielder Chris Dickerson ran down to end a 10-pitch at-bat and Hector Luna on a grounder.
“It’s the first outing,” Rivera said. “You just have to do what you have to do, and I think I did what I wanted to do. I threw my pitches, felt good, and I’m waiting for the next outing.”
Rivera went 1-2 with 44 saves in 49 chances and a 1.91 ERA last year, when he was selected for his fourth straight All-Star appearances and 12th overall. Last spring training, he struck out the side against a Minnesota split squad on March, the first of five scoreless, one-inning appearances during the exhibition season.
“He looked sharp,” Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. “When doesn’t he look sharp — that’s the question? Same guy as last year. Same guy for the last 20 years. The command he has is second to none.”
Following the retirements of Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, Rivera and 37-year-old Derek Jeter are the only remaining players from the core group that led the Yankees’ resurgence.
“It’s just a great feeling to have him and to be able to watch the way he goes about his business,” Sabathia said. “Hopefully he plays a few more years
Sabathia, slated to start New York’s opener at Tampa Bay on April 6, allowed two hits, struck out two and walked one. He threw 28 of 39 pitches for strikes, and he worked out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the first, getting fly balls from Shane Victorino and Wigginton.
“Fastball command was pretty good,” Sabathia said. “Secondary pitches were working. Still have a little ways to go. Still want to work on my two-seamer and being able to throw that at any time, but feel good today.”
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick gave up three hits in three shutout innings with two strikeouts and no walks.
“I feel real good right now, that’s the main thing,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick agreed to a $7.5 million, two-year contract with the Phillies last month. He went 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA last year in 15 starts and 19 relief appearances.
“I love starting, but if it’s the seventh, eighth — if it’s starting, whatever they ask you take the ball,” Kendrick said. “I just go out there and try to get better. Do my business every day. They’re going to make those decisions. It’s up to them.”
Derek Jeter singled off Kendrick in the first and third innings. Chris Dickerson had a two-run single in the fourth — an inning after he collided with plate umpire Dan Iassogna after getting tagged out in a rundown.
Philadelphia had three hits off seven pitchers.
“Really, our bullpen is probably the strength of our team,” Sabathia said. “Just to have all those guys back there and Mo closing it up. That just feels good.”
Notes: Martin was hit on the side of the elbow by an Austin Hyatt changeup in the fourth, but remained in the game. … Hyatt gave up two runs and two hits in three innings. … Martin has four stolen bases this spring. He had eight during the regular season last year. … Yankees INF Eduardo Nunez, hit by a pitch last Monday, said he only feels pain when swinging a bat and did not take batting practice on Sunday. “It’s feeling better, but slowly, Nunez said. … New York LHP Boone Logan, slowed by a stiff neck, pitched a 1-2-3 fifth.
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