Mariano's latest bullpen session goes smoothly

TAMPA, Fla. -- The problem was with Mariano Rivera's knee and never his arm, so the Yankees' closer expressed no surprise that his 30-pitch bullpen session flowed so smoothly on Saturday.

"I always tell you guys that I trust myself," Rivera said. "I trust God first, then I trust myself. I'm capable to do this. I was expecting this. It feels good. Everything feels good."

Rivera completed his work off the mound while wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired right knee, which he said is not bulky and feels almost like he is pitching with a tight sock on.

The 42-year-old said that he is not worried about getting into shape to close out save opportunities this season. He will be back on a mound Tuesday after two days off, but Rivera said he is paying close attention to his progress in daily pitchers' fielding practice and looks forward to actual game conditions.

"I will be looking for the games," Rivera said. "The reason why is because you have to react there: bunting, comebackers, cover first, all that stuff. You can't think, you have to react. That will be, I would say, the biggest test."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed, saying that while he is confident Rivera will be ready on April 1, he wants to see the all-time saves leader on the field before he makes that assumption in concrete.

"Mo's been throwing for a while, so I feel pretty good about it," Girardi said. "But I want to see Mo in a game have to break for first."

Girardi said that Rivera will not appear in games until later in March. Even though a pair of gray pants hung in his locker on Saturday, Rivera will be excused from making all Spring Training road trips, as usual.

"There's no rush," Rivera said. "We have a long, long, long Spring Training. I want to take every day one day at a time, and take as much [time] as I need to be in that position to be ready to field balls and cover bases and all that stuff. No rush; I have no rush."