Mariano Rivera staying focused

Mariano Rivera delivers a pitch in the bullpen

Mariano Rivera delivers a pitch in the bullpen during spring training at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sitting in his locker chair at the far end of the Yankees' clubhouse, Mariano Rivera wasn't in a reflective mood.

Not about his final spring training, not about soaking in the clubhouse atmosphere one more time, not about his final Opening Day in the Bronx, which will occur Monday against the Red Sox.

"I'm just focused on what I have to do. I don't worry about that stuff,'' the 43-year-old closer said, quite pleasantly and without irritation, Thursday morning.

Rivera recently announced that this season will be his last. He has said there will be a time to reflect and look back, but that time clearly wasn't Thursday.

Rivera had a strong spring training, allowing three hits, a walk and no runs and striking out eight in six innings. "I enjoyed this [spring training] as much as I enjoyed the others,'' he said. "Came here to get ready for the season and that's what I did.''

 

Kuroda all set

Hiroki Kuroda, who will make his season debut Wednesday against the Red Sox, pitched well in his final tuneup, allowing one hit in six innings in a 2-1 loss to the Pirates. He had a 1.53 ERA in spring training. "My main thing was to stay healthy,'' Kuroda, 38, said of his pre-spring training goals. "And I was able to do that.''

 

The rivalry? EhKevin Youkilis, who has seen plenty of Yankees-Red Sox games from the opposing dugout, said players approach the games with excitement but also resignation.

"As players, we kind of . . . we didn't dread it, you're excited to play it, but you know you're going to be on Fox, you know you're going to be on ESPN, you know it's going to be a four-hour game. You always wish it wasn't that long,'' Youkilis said. "But for us, you have to treat it like a normal game. It's one of 162.''

 

Nuno top rookie

Lefthander Vidal Nuno, who has impressed opposing scouts throughout spring training and has a chance to make the Opening Day roster, was presented the James P. Dawson Award -- given annually to the outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training -- before Thursday's game. Nuno, 25, went 1-1 with one save and a 0.61 ERA (one earned run in 142/3 innings) in seven appearances (two starts).

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