Larry Rothschild isn't concerned about Mariano Rivera
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Larry Rothschild sees no reason to handle Mariano Rivera any differently this season.
After all, the 43-year-old closer has never conceded much to age, and the Yankees' pitching coach doesn't figure 2013 will be the year that changes. Even with Rivera coming off surgery to repair a torn right ACL.
"If he's healthy, I don't anticipate it [being different],'' Rothschild said Thursday. "He's a guy that when he pitches an inning, a lot of times it's nine, 10, 11, 12 pitches. He's not throwing 25-pitch innings and struggling."
Rivera, of course, is coming off a major injury, suffering the ACL tear while shagging fly balls before a May 3 game in Kansas City. But all indications are that Rivera, who was 1-1 with five saves and a 2.16 ERA when he got hurt, is completely healed and will face no limitations in spring training.
So it will be left to the closer to map out his spring training regimen, as has been the case much of the last decade or so. He'll throw his first bullpen session when he feels ready -- that usually occurs about two weeks after pitchers and catchers report -- and he will throw his customary innings load, typically in the range of eight.
"He's a veteran guy. He knows what he needs to do," Rothschild said. "He knows himself when he needs a day [off], when he doesn't. So I think you have to trust that with a guy that has had his career and knows himself the way he does."
The role of closer, obviously, won't be an open competition in spring training, nor will there be a battle for the first four spots in the rotation, expected to be occupied by CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes.
There will be a battle for the fifth spot between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, but Rothschild hinted that Nova has an inside track on the job.
"You look at Nova and he's had a lot of wins the last two years," Rothschild said. "My job going into spring training is to get him back to where he should be and pitching the way he's capable of, and the rest will take care of itself."
After going 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011, Nova fell to 12-8, 5.02 in 2012. Though Nova earlier in the week called last season a "bad year," Rothschild boiled it down to "two bad months," the product of, at times, forcing things on the mound.
"He did that with a lot of pitches," he said. "Just certain times in games where you could see he wasn't successful with a certain pitch, but he stayed with it and it ended up costing him in situations."
Rothschild said that kind of regression isn't unusual.
"He went through what young pitchers go through," he said. "You can go through the history of a lot of young pitchers and you can see they've gone through similar things. It's how you come out of it that's more important than that you went through it.''
Stewart excitedCatcher Chris Stewart said he is "pumped" about entering spring training with a real chance of competing for a starting job for the first time in his career. It can't be ruled out that general manager Brian Cashman will make a move before the season starts -- Stewart himself was acquired the day camp broke last year -- but as of now, Stewart will compete with Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine.
"It's kind of a new chapter for me," said Stewart, 31. "Not really used to going in and having a shot to be the starter, so I'm welcoming it.''