Andy Pettitte threw batting practice this morning before Mariano Rivera came to the mound and — like he has so many times before — watched the closer breeze through batters in an important situation.
Unlike much of his career, Rivera wasn't sewing up a win for the Yankees, but baby-stepping his way back from knee surgery last season.
In front of GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, Rivera threw his first batting practice of spring training and, according to Rivera, everything went as planned.
"It was the first batting practice I threw this year and I am really happy with the results," Rivera said following a 25-pitch batting practice session at George M. Steinbrenner Field Friday morning. "And it will get better."
While no date has been set when the 43-year-old will pitch in a game, all signs tell the Yankees everything is going according to schedule.
"I felt real good. The big thing will be to do the real thing, running to first base and fielding bunts,'' Rivera said. "I have done that on the back field but that's not the same as a real game."
Rivera even joked with the minor league batters he faced and told New Jersey native Rob Segedin, "You better swing," before tossing the first pitch in his direction.
"I wanted to see hitters. I didn't do nothing different than from the bullpen [workouts]," Rivera said. "It helped me to see how the ball was moving, location and how they are swinging."
The all-time saves leader realizes he is coming back from a serious knee injury and will take it one day at a time.
"I am excited to feel the mound and see hitters. It was great,'' said Rivera, who hadn't thrown to a batter since last April 30 when he secured a 2-1 win over the Orioles. "I always appreciate it, that's why I love the game of baseball. You don't know when the last day you play (comes)."
From the looks of things, that might be the biggest question surrounding Rivera this year. So, when is the last day?
"I don't know, I will let you know,'' said Rivera, who has said he does know but, like his cutter, is hard to see coming.