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Yankees' Rivera says this is last season

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitches a perfect fifth inning against the Braves in what will be his final spring training.

Associated Press

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitches a perfect fifth inning against the Braves in what will be his final spring training.

TAMPA — Mariano Rivera and his family walked into the pavilion behind the third-base stands at Steinbrenner Field followed by his Yankees teammates.

Saturday was the start of the long goodbye for baseball's greatest closer.

Dressed in a dark jersey top and pinstriped uniform pants, Rivera announced what already had leaked out: His 19th major-league season will be his last.

Rivera, 43, has a clear vision of how he wants his career to end.

"The last game I hope will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series," he said. "Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition."

Rivera said he made the decision before arriving at spring training. With the entire Yankees team looking on, including longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, Rivera said he knew the time was right for his decision. Rivera sat at a table, and team officials, led by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and manager Joe Girardi, sat nearby.

"I have just a few bullets left," he said.

He then made his first game appearance since April 30, throwing 15 pitches during a perfect fifth inning against Atlanta. Looking like his overpowering self of old, Rivera retired Dan Uggla on a popup to second then threw called third strikes past Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson.

"It was great to be on the mound again," Rivera said with a big smile.

Rivera jogged onto the field from the rightfield bullpen to a standing ovation as Metallica's Enter Sandman played, then he left the mound to another loud ovation. He called the whole day "overwhelming."

"It's wonderful," he said. "I can't ask for more than that."

With a dominating cut fastball few batters have figured out, Rivera holds the career saves record with 608 and has helped the Yankees win five World Series titles. He combined with Jeter, Pettitte and Jorge Posada to form the Yankees' Core Four.

"We just have a special relationship," Pettitte said. "I don't know how to explain it. Obviously, when you spent as much time together after as many years as we've been together, you just kind of grow a little closer to one another than you would with other teammates. He's always been there for me."

JETER RETURNS: Jeter, the Yankees captain and shortstop, singled sharply to leftfield on his first pitch since breaking an ankle in the AL Championship Series. He grounded out to third base in his only other at-bat.

Jays: Busting out

DUNEDIN — Jose Bautista, who had only three hits in his first eight exhibition games for the Blue Jays, looked more like his normal star self Saturday, hitting a two-run homer, doubling and scoring twice in a 4-2 victory over the Tigers.

Bautista, whose homer came off RHP Doug Fister in the first inning, made a throw from rightfield in the second that 1B Adam Lind relayed to cut down Alex Avila at the plate.

Phils: Results, eh

CLEARWATER — Closer Jonathan Papelbon finally had an effective outing, pitching a perfect fifth inning in a 15-7 loss to the Rays. It meant about as much to him as his first two outings, when he allowed eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.

"I'm just trying to just keep my delivery intact, that's it," he told mlb.com. "All I try to do really is try to make sure that my delivery gets better and better as spring goes on. I don't worry about velocity. I don't worry about really making pitches until the last few weeks."

.area camps

Blue Jays

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Tickets: (727) 733-0429, bluejays.com

Today: vs. Yankees, 1:05

Phillies

Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Tickets: (727) 467-4457, phillies.com

Today: at Astros, Kissimmee, 1:05

Yankees

Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Drive (corner Martin Luther King and Dale Mabry), Tampa

Tickets: (813) 879-2244, yankees.com

Today: at Jays, 1:05, Dunedin

Yankees' Rivera says this is last season 03/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 9:21pm]

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