TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Yankees manager Joe Girardi needed just one word to describe closer Mariano Rivera’s first spring training appearance: Silly!
Rivera struck out all three batters he faced during his initial outing, New York’s 9-2 loss to a Minnesota Twins spilt-squad on Sunday.
“It felt great,” Rivera said. “I can’t complain.”
Jason Kubel and pinch-hitter Matt Brown struck out looking, while Luke Hughes went down swinging against Rivera, who threw nine of 12 pitches for strikes during the sixth inning.
“What did he throw? 10 pitches?” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “He throws strikes. It doesn’t surprise me.”
Rivera has taken a slower approach in recent years to prepare for the regular season. He was 3-3 with a 1.80 ERA and 33 saves in 38 chances last season. The 11-time All-Star has 559 regular-season saves, second to Trevor Hoffman’s 601, and a record 42 in the postseason.
“Mo has a plan and regiment, and it works for him,” Girardi said. “He does it as good as anybody I’ve seen.”
Alex Rodriguez hit a solo homer to center off Scott Baker in the second for the Yankees.
Baker, bidding for a spot in the Minnesota rotation, allowed one run and two hits over four innings.
Freddy Garcia, competing for one of two openings in the Yankees’ rotation, gave up four runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings. The right-hander had thrown five scoreless innings overall in his earlier two starts.
“I have to take it out of my mind,” Garcia said. “What happened today, that’s today. I didn’t pitch the way I wanted to pitch. Try to focus on my next game.”
Garcia struck out three, walked two and hit a batter during his 68-pitch outing.
Twins center fielder Denard Span went 3 for 4 in his return to George Steinbrenner Field, where he hit his mother in the upper chest with a foul ball leading off a spring training game last March 31.
Wanda Wilson, who was OK after being hit last year while sitting near the Twins’ third-base side dugout, was among approximately 30 family members and friends in attendance for Minnesota’s only game this year at the Yankees’ spring training complex. Span, who is from Tampa, said his mother’s seat for Sunday’s game was behind the home-plate protective screen.
Span has been a leading voice in calling for expanded screening at ballparks. He is hopeful that it will be a topic of discussion between the owners and the player’s union this year.
The primary eighth-inning setup man for Rivera, Rafael Soriano, allowed a two-out single to Span during a scoreless fifth. Soriano has not given up a run in three innings overall.
Soriano was an AL All-Star last year, when he had a league-leading 45 saves for Tampa Bay in his only year with the Rays. He agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with the Yankees in January.
Jeter was charged with an error when he misplayed Hughes’ pop fly in the fourth.
“I dropped it,” he said. “Once I started backpedaling, I was in trouble.”
Notes: Rivera agreed to a $30 million, two-year contract in December. … Yankees ace CC Sabathia and New York RHP Bartolo Colon are scheduled in pitch in a simulated game on Tuesday’s offday. … Twins RHP Matt Capps had a 1-2-3 fifth inning. … New York optioned RHP Hector Noesi to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and sent RHPs Brian Anderson, David Phelps and Adam Warren, LHPs Buddy Carlyle and Andy Sisco, INF Bradley Suttle and OFs Austin Krum and Daniel Brewer to its minor league camp. … Yankees LHP Robert Fish was claimed on waivers by Kansas City, while RHP Daniel Turpen, taken in the Rule 5 draft, was returned to Boston.
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