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Yankees notes: Rivera, Tanaka, Canzler

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The New York Yankees flew into Panama on Friday for a pair of exhibition games against the Miami Marlins in the home country of baseball’s career saves leader, Mariano Rivera.

Both games, which will be played at Rod Carew Stadium, highlight a weekend-long tribute to Rivera, who is arguably the greatest relief pitcher of all-time.

Rivera indicated to reporters that “it was my dream to bring my team and my teammates to enjoy my homeland.”

When Rivera’s former teammates disembarked on Friday, they were wearing Panama hats. A group of players and manager Joe Girardi visited the Panama Canal and took pictures and signed autographs for tourists. Rivera’s successor, David Robertson, was especially surprised by his visit to the Canal.

“You never think they could fit a ship through this canal, but somehow they do,” said Robertson.

Robertson and Derek Jeter would later join Rivera for a visit to the Children’s Hospital of Panama.

“The children were very happy,” Rivera said at the dinner to raise funds for that hospital. “We want to help and that’s what this is about.”

Tanaka to be “fourth” starter?

It appears likely that New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will make his regular season debut in the team’s fourth game of the year, when they face the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada. This speculation comes after pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters on Saturday that getting Tanaka an extra day of rest early in the season would be a priority.

“I think we weigh the schedule a little bit, where he can get extra rest in the season to try to keep him strong through the year,” Rothschild said. “We’ve got the 13 games in a row to start. That’s going to impact when we decide to pitch him.”

Based on Rothschild’s reasoning, the fourth game of the season would make sense. Tanaka would make his second start on regular rest before getting an extra day off prior to making his third start. He would also be able to get an extra day off before his fifth and sixth starts based on this plan.

While the Yankees could in theory throw Tanaka in the season’s fifth game, he would then be lined up to make his Yankee Stadium debut against the rival Boston Red Sox – a pressure-packed situation that the team may want to avoid.

Injury updates

Eduardo Nunez was scheduled to be off on Saturday even before he was spiked during Friday’s game. He is perfectly fine and says he could have played if necessary.

Russ Canzler was scratched from Saturday’s road trip to Sarasota because of hip stiffness that forced him from the lineup on Friday. He will spend the day doing treatment, and will be replaced by minor leaguer Kyle Roller at designated hitter.

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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