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Rivera's last (?) season begins

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Blue Jays

Where: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Today: vs. Orioles, 1:05, Dunedin

Info: bluejays.com/spring training; (727) 733-0429

Phillies

Where: Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Today: at Pirates, 1:05, Bradenton

Info: phillies.com/spring training; (727) 467-4457

Yankees

Where: Steinbrenner Field, corner of Dale Mabry and Martin Luther King, Tampa

Today: vs. Astros, 7:05, Tampa

Info: yankees.com/spring training; (813) 879-2244

TAMPA — Mariano Rivera walked to the mound as Enter Sandman played before the fourth inning, his number 42 matching his age during a game for the first time. Many of the 10,810 fans in Steinbrenner Field rose for a standing ovation, a tribute to the start of what may be the great closer's final season.

Rivera followed LHP CC Sabathia with a perfect inning in his first spring appearance of the year and got the victory in New York's 3-0 split-squad victory over the Phillies.

If Rivera's 18th season will be his last, he isn't saying.

"I always appreciate it," he said of the ovation. "It don't matter the situation. I always appreciate it.

When Rivera reported to the Yankees on Feb. 20, he said he had decided on whether he will retire after this season but said he might not reveal it until October. It's a touchy subject. Asked whether he thought fans rose to their feet because they thought it might be his final year, he smiled, said, "I got to go," and walked away after his postgame interview lasted just 95 seconds.

HUGHES STRONG: RHP Phil Hughes looked sharp in a split-squad game against the Twins, allowing one hit in three scoreless innings and showing improved velocity. "I thought he had everything," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his fastball location was much better. I thought he threw some good changeups."

Phils: Lee roughed up

CLEARWATER — Cliff Lee keeps working out the kinks.

The Phillies left-hander gave up a two-run homer to former Durant standout Ryan Raburn in the first inning Sunday in a 4-4 game with the Tigers in a split-squad exhibition. The game was called after the 10th.

Lee gave up three consecutive hits to begin the game, including Raburn's shot. After Miguel Cabrera singled, Lee set down three straight batters, striking out two.

"Physically I felt fine. My location was a little off, but I threw strikes," Lee said. "I got through it healthy. I'm building up endurance. I'm headed in the right direction."

Lee, slowed by a minor abdominal injury at the start of spring, allowed six hits in three innings. He has given up two runs on eight hits in two exhibition games, spanning five innings.

THOME AT FIRST: Phillies 1B Jim Thome will play first base in a minor-league game today. Thome, who hasn't played the position regularly since his first tour with the Phillies in 2005, will slowly work his way into major-league exhibition games this spring and could start once a week during the regular season.

Jays: Hot start

DUNEDIN — Blue Jays manager John Farrell thinks there's no reason for Brett Lawrie to have any doubts about his game.

Lawrie went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .579 and had one of Toronto's five doubles in a 9-5 win over the Braves in a game between split squads.

A Braves-Blue Jays split-squad game in Kissimmee was postponed by rain in the third.

Lawrie batted .293 last year and didn't dip below .300 until his final three games before a broken finger ended his season Sept. 20.

Farrell said Lawrie is "showing more confidence in his game. I wouldn't say (more) confidence in himself; he's always had a lot of confidence, but just the fact that he's got just about a year under his belt potentially at third base, I think 150 at-bats last year went a long way in his belief that he can handle any kind of pitching he's going to see."

ENCOURAGING: Farrell said RHP Dustin McGowan, in a comeback after missing 2½ seasons due to shoulder surgeries, "feels great coming out of (Saturday's two-inning) outing. A very promising start," his first of the spring.

Rivera's last (?) season begins 03/11/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 6:36pm]
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