TAMPA, Fla. -- Mariano Rivera pounced off the mound to grab a slow roller, straightened and fired a strike to first base. If not for endless replays of that afternoon gone wrong in Kansas City last year, you'd never suspect there was anything out of the ordinary.
The Yankees closer smoothly fielded two bunts and a grounder and also covered first base during an 18-pitch simulated inning on Thursday morning. Rivera said that his next step will be to prove his surgically repaired right knee passes the test in game action.
"It feels good. It feels real good," Rivera said. "That's what I wanted to do, field some bunts, go after some balls in between first and the mound and just plant and throw. That's perfect."
Rivera said there is no exact plan to get into a spring game, though with a month left to go in Spring Training, the Yankees don't feel any particular urgency to hurry the 43-year-old all-time saves leader.
"There is no real timetable, in a sense," manager Joe Girardi said. "We just go day by day to see how he's doing. I expect he'll throw another simulated game and then we'll evaluate after that. You're just able to control it.
"For me, he's getting his work in. He's facing right-handers and left-handers; we can bunt on him. We can force a bunt on him and make him do some things, so he knows that he's comfortable doing those things."
Yankees ace CC Sabathia said that Rivera looked crisp as he worked to a group of Minor League hitters on a back diamond of the George M. Steinbrenner Field complex.
"He looked good, which I expected," Sabathia said. "He's throwing the ball right where he wants to, and for him to be able to do that in February is amazing."
Sabathia threw 46 pitches over two simulated innings on Thursday and said he is getting "antsy" to appear in a game. Sabathia is coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow in October.
"It feels good; no problems," Sabathia said. "I'm excited. I don't have that little pain in there anymore, and I'm getting used to not dealing with that."
Girardi said that Sabathia will throw a simulated game on March 5. Though that would line Sabathia up to start in a Grapefruit League game on March 10, the Yanks might skip that start, too, because New York is facing the division-rival Blue Jays that day.
"I think CC knows how to get prepared," Girardi said.