NEW YORK -- It was the promise of more games like these, wearing pinstripes under the lights of the brightest spot in the South Bronx, that pushed Mariano Rivera through his grueling rehabilitation.
Rivera refused to permit a warning track mishap in Kansas City to be the final word on his Major League career. Eleven months and one day from that ugly afternoon, the all-time saves leader said that nights like this were what he had worked so hard for.
"I did miss them a lot," the 42-year-old Rivera said. "At the same time, I have to be patient. I couldn't push it, I couldn't rush it. I just had to do things right."
As he buzzed a cutter on the outside corner to freeze Red Sox rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. for the final out of the Yankees' 4-2 victory, Rivera chalked up career save No. 609 and moved further away from the right knee injury that prematurely ended his 2012 season.
"It's amazing. I always say I'm going to tell my kids, 'I caught Mariano Rivera,'" catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "I think it's one of the greatest moments I ever had in my career, because he is, and he is going to be, the best reliever I've ever seen in my life."
Andy Pettitte logged the victory, marking the Major League record 69th time that the dynamic duo have teamed in a win-save combination.
"Obviously I feel real, real secure and good about things whenever you see that guy running in from the bullpen in the ninth inning," Pettitte said. "It's special. It'll be special for me watching him this year and knowing that this is it."
Rivera entered the game to the familiar strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and nearly had Dustin Pedroia rung up on a close two-strike pitch but didn't get a friendly call from umpire Mike DiMuro and walked Pedroia. Rivera said that there may have been some nerves in play.
"I would say so," Rivera said. "I'm not a pitcher that goes there and walks the first guy."
Rivera said his nerves settled when he got Mike Napoli to fly out to right field. Jonny Gomes doubled down the left-field line and Will Middlebrooks grounded out to push home Boston's second run, but Rivera sent Bradley back to the bench on three pitches to secure the save.
"You wait for almost a year to be on the mound and get your job done," Rivera said. "It's special to be here at home. The love, the passion and drive that you have for the game motivated me to keep going."
Girardi bats Cano second for finale vs. Red Sox
NEW YORK -- As the Yankees search for their first victory of the young season, Robinson Cano will receive a chance to produce in the No. 2 spot of the lineup.
Manager Joe Girardi said that he bumped Cano up in the order because he wanted the right-handed Kevin Youkilis hitting third, a response to the lefty-heavy lineup the Yankees were fielding against Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster on Thursday.
"It's just to try to break up some of the left-handers that we have," Girardi said. "We have a substantial amount in our lineup without the switch-hitters -- Tex [Mark Teixeira], where you could put him in between.
"I decided to take a look at this. I thought about it yesterday, doing it yesterday, but we'll go with it one more day to see how it looks. It's just to try to not make it so easy on the other team."
Brett Gardner is leading off, followed by Cano, Youkilis and lefty Travis Hafner. The order goes righty-lefty from there, with Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, Lyle Overbay and Francisco Cervelli.
Cano did not bat second all of last year during the regular season, though Girardi did try him there in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers. He has started 70 big league games batting second, most recently in 2010.
Girardi said that the idea should not be considered an effort to shake up the lineup after losing the first two games of the season.
"I think it's way too early to do that," Girardi said. "It's two games; we scored four runs last night and had some opportunities in the first day. I think it's really too early to do that, but I just don't like having three lefties in a row."
Kuroda receiving treatment, hopes to make next start
NEW YORK -- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda said that his bruised right middle finger is giving him some discomfort, one day after he was struck by a line drive, but he still hopes to make his next start.
Kuroda has been receiving ice, tape and laser treatment since he made contact with Shane Victorino's second-inning liner in New York's 7-4 loss to Boston on Thursday. An X-ray and CT scan showed no fracture or other damage.
"The bottom line is, I'm going to try to make my next start," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I'd have to say I don't feel normal. I feel a little discomfort there. It's a batted ball that hit my hand in my fingers, so that's natural, I think."
Kuroda said that he will know more when he throws a bullpen session on Friday at Comerica Park. If he is unable to pitch, right-hander Adam Warren could get the call after providing 5 1/3 innings of one-run relief on Wednesday.
Wells enjoying early success in pinstripes
NEW YORK -- Vernon Wells has enjoyed some early success in his new uniform, logging three hits in his first seven at-bats as a Yankee, including a three-run homer in Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.
"I think every game, every at-bat that you have, you want to be productive," Wells said. "You want to go up there and have your approach and stick to it.
"That's something that once the offseason started my goal was just to get better and get back to doing what I'm capable of doing. That's just making solid contact, and if I do that, I'm capable of helping this team out from start to finish."
Wells, 34, was acquired on March 26 from the Angels in exchange for Minor Leaguers Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed. He entered the spring as the Angels' fifth outfielder, and manager Joe Girardi believes that Wells is embracing a new opportunity.
"He's swung the bat well. His at-bats have been really good," Girardi said. "In left field, he looks comfortable; I know he's played there since going over to the Angels. He looks comfortable to me, and it looks like he's relishing his time here."
Wells was clearly elated to report to the Yankees after the trade was made, and he said that it has been an easy adjustment to fit into the surroundings.
"The good thing about this place is I've been here several times. It's like I'm home," said Wells, who has played 86 games in Yankee Stadium. "I've always enjoyed playing here. Anytime you get a chance to play the pinstripes and now get a chance to put them on, it's an honor and a privilege and I take great respect for that."
• Shortstop Derek Jeter was limited to working out indoors on Thursday at the team's complex in Tampa, Fla., due to inclement weather. Jeter has not seen game action since his surgically repaired left ankle felt sore following four at-bats in a March 23 Minor League contest.
• Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training game on Thursday at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla.
• On this date in 1989, Yankees starter Tommy John set a Major League record by pitching in his 26th big league season (a mark that was later broken by Nolan Ryan). John allowed two runs in seven innings, earning career win No. 287 in a 4-2 victory over the Twins.
• The Yankees granted right-hander David Aardsma his unconditional release on Thursday. Aardsma, 31, had a 3.52 ERA in eight spring appearances, but he was designated for assignment because the team preferred Shawn Kelley, who could offer multiple innings of relief.