Saturday morning in Tampa was focused on New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who announced he would retire at the end of the 2013 season at a 10 AM press conference. On Saturday afternoon, Rivera had to share the limelight with shortstop Derek Jeter, who was returning from a broken ankle suffered in the 2012 playoffs, as the veteran duo made their spring debuts at George M. Steinbrenner Field during the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
For Jeter, his first time seeing game action since being carried off the field in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series went by uneventfully. Jeter served as the designated hitter in his return, going 1-for-2 before being lifted for pinch hitter Travis Hafner in the fifth inning. Jeter swung at the first pitch he saw, lacing a single into left field off Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor. In Jeter’s second at-bat, he again swung at the first pitch. This time though, Jeter was not successful, grounding out to third base. Jeter did not appear in the field, and is still a few games away from making his first appearance at shortstop this spring.
When Mariano Rivera entered the game in relief of starting pitcher Jose Ramirez in the fifth inning, a cheer went up from the crowd at George M. Steinbrenner Field. For the first time this spring, on the day he announced his retirement from baseball, Rivera trotted onto the field in his return from a torn ACL suffered in May of 2012. Rivera threw fifteen pitches – eight of which were strikes – as he retired the side in order. The 43-year-old closer looked to be working towards midseason form, striking out two batters while showing a good cutter that was in the 90-91 MPH range. Of course, always tough on himself, Rivera later graded his outing as a six out of ten when appearing on the YES Network broadcast during the eighth inning.
In the case of both Jeter and Rivera, the biggest takeaway from today was health. Rivera looked fine in his first action of the spring, not showing any signs of favoring against his surgically repaired knee. For Jeter, he did not run at full speed while on the bases; however, he appeared to be moving pretty well on the surgically repaired ankle. Joe Girardi and the Yankees will be keeping an eye on Jeter and Rivera this spring to ensure they do not overdo themselves as they return from injury. However, Saturday’s game was the first step towards the Yankees finally getting some good news on the injury front this spring.
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