Rivera perfect in first spring appearance

March 17, 2009 8:15:12 PM PDT
Mariano Rivera struck out two during a perfect fifth inning in his first game since undergoing offseason right shoulder surgery and the New York Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 on Tuesday night. "I feel real good," Rivera said. "I don't want to say I was expecting this, but I was happy with the results. It went well. Location. Pitches. I think everything will be fine."

Rivera had the AC joint in his right shoulder repaired on Oct. 7. The Yankees closer threw eight of 11 pitches for strikes.

"Mo looked like he has been pitching for a couple of weeks," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was incredible. It was more than I expected."

CC Sabathia, the expected Yankees' opening-day starter, gave up one run and one hit in four innings. The left-hander struck out seven and walked one.

"More strikes. Down in the zone," said Sabathia, who allowed five runs over 1 2-3 innings in a start against Detroit last Wednesday. "Just shortened up my stride a little bit. Started getting downhill. I worked on that in the bullpen."

Hideki Matsui went 2-for-2 and drove in four runs for the Yankees. He hit a two-run double in the first inning, and added a two-run homer during a six-run third.

Virgil Vazquez, competing for one of the Pirates' final two rotation spots, allowed six runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings.

The 39-year-old Rivera went 6-5 with a 1.40 ERA and converted 39 of 40 save opportunities in 2008.

"In my eyes, Mo has been the greatest closer," Girardi said.

How Rivera feels on Wednesday will be the next big test.

"To me the day after is bigger than the day," Girardi said.

"You want to come out, get his work in and see if he can bounce back. Everything so far has been good."

Rivera has no doubt he will be ready for opening day.

"That makes me feel really good just because I know how in tune Mo is with his body," Girardi said. "I believe he's going to be ready."

Rivera is scheduled to pitch again on Thursday.

"He looked amazing," Sabathia said. "To have him at the back end of the bullpen, I never really had a dominate closer like that.

Mo is something different."

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, coming off right shoulder surgery, played behind the plate for the second time in spring training. He made his first throw to a base in the second when Jose Tabata stole third.

"I didn't have a good grip," Posada said. "I threw it and everything was fine. Nothing hurt. I'm happy with the result."

Tabata, acquired from the Yankees last summer, later scored on Steve Pearce's grounder. He went 2-for-4.

The Pirates got good news regarding two injured outfielders.

Eric Hinske, out with a rib injury, is set to play in right field Wednesday. Brandon Moss, sidelined by a sprained right thumb, could be back in the lineup Friday.

The Yankees have scored 21 runs over the past two games.

"All-in-all, it was great," Girardi said.

Notes: Girardi said LHP Kei Igawa, who has thrown 12 scoreless innings this spring, is in the mix for the long relief spot. "I think it's a role he could do," Girardi said. "Throw a lot of pitches and bounce back. It's something we have to look at."

Others under consideration include RHPs Brett Tomko, Jason Johnson and Alfredo Aceves. ... New York LHP Damaso Marte (left shoulder inflammation) reported no problems after a bullpen session and may pitch in a game this weekend. ... Posada fouled a ball off his left foot in the third, but remained in the game. ... Yankees 2B Robinson Cano (right shoulder tendinitis) continued a throwing program and still expects to play in the field on Friday. He entered in the third as a pinch hitter for Matsui.