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Sunday notes from Tampa: A new era begins

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TAMPA, Fla. – One day after Masahiro Tanaka had his first official workout with the New York Yankees, the relief pitchers got their turn.

Sunday was highlighted by new closer David Robertson leading eight other pitchers in bullpen sessions, including Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton, the two other players most likely locked into late-inning relief roles.

Of course, Sunday marked the earliest that a Yankees closer has thrown a bullpen session in over a decade, as Mariano Rivera rarely, if ever, picked up a baseball before March.

Robertson indicated that he expects to do his normal spring training routine, which means bullpen sessions every third day and appearances in every other game. This also means road trips for the newly-appointed closer, marking another difference between him and Rivera.

After recording a 5-1 record with a 2.04 ERA last season, Robertson appears ready to take over the closer’s role. His predecessor, Mariano Rivera, has indicated his belief that Robertson is ready to take over.

"That means a lot," Robertson said. "I’ve spent a lot of time with Mariano and I think he knows what I’m capable of and he’s always told me what I’m capable of. I think I have the abilities to be the closer. It’s not proven yet. But I know in my heart I can do it, I just have to go out there and prove it to myself."

Sleeper bullpen candidate

Joining Robertson, Kelley, and Thornton in the first bullpen group was Matt Daley, who pitched just seven games at the major league level last season, but did not allow a run in six innings of work.

With a couple of seasons of big league experience with the Colorado Rockies, Daley could surprise a lot of people and earn a spot in the bullpen with a strong spring. Given Joe Girardi’s tendency to prefer veterans to younger players, don’t be surprised if Daley gets the nod if it comes down to him and Chase Whitley or Mark Montgomery.

Live BP is coming

On just the fourth day of spring training, live batting practice will begin. Vidal Nuno, Chase Whitley, and Dellin Betances are all scheduled to throw, and there is a chance that David Phelps and Adam Warren will be throwing as well.

Most of these guys have been in Tampa for a couple of weeks already, and Betances has been down in the Dominican Republic working out with a pitching guru. If his command has improved, Betances will likely make the team as a reliever.

No word on whether the hitters will be catchers already in camp or a few guys from the minor league complex.

Dan is Examiner.com’s beat writer for the New York Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Follow him on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for all the latest New York Yankees news.

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