SARASOTA, Fla. — Symbols can be powerful in spring training. The games are exhibitions, the lineups filled with strange names. On Monday the Yankees faced a playoff opponent from last fall, the Baltimore Orioles, and brought just two players from the postseason roster: Brett Gardner and Jayson Nix. The starting first baseman wore No. 98.
The Rivera they brought here was Juan, the veteran outfielder trying to cling to a fading career. The Rivera who stayed behind in Tampa offered a sliver of hope to a team that badly needs it.
Mariano Rivera took the mound again. His work was tidy — 32 pitches, done by 10 a.m. — but meaningful. For the second time this spring, Rivera threw batting practice. He wears a sleeve on his surgically repaired right knee, the one that felled him last May, but you cannot notice it through his uniform. Same old Mo.
“I don’t think about it at all,” Rivera said later, by the indoor batting cages, out of the sun but still sweating. “It’s like nothing ever happened.”
Really, though, things keep happening to the Yankees, with discouraging regularity. Derek Jeter’s ankle. C. C. Sabathia’s elbow. Alex Rodriguez’s hip. Phil Hughes’s back. And now Curtis Granderson’s forearm, fractured by a pitch Sunday in his first plate appearance of the spring.