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Thursday notes: “That’s how good Mo was”

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All spring it’s been widely suspected that Mariano Rivera would retire at the end of the season. So why is today’s news still hitting everyone pretty hard? Because of stories like this.

“When I see Mariano the first time, when he say ‘hola’ to me, I was kind of nervous,” Ivan Nova said. “It’s Mariano Rivera. I remember when I got called up to Detroit (for the first time), the way he treated me in the bullpen, it was like I was one of the veteran guys too. That makes you feel really good. … He was the one that was on top of me in 2011, pushing me, pushing me, pushing me all the time. One thing that he told me when I saw him here this year was that he was going to be on top of me, that whatever happened to me last year, we cannot let that happen again. When a veteran like that motivates you that way, it means a lot.”

And because of stories like this.

“When I go back to Japan,” Ichiro Suzuki said. “(People) would ask who was the guy that you didn’t want to face or the toughest guy that you faced. He was probably the one that would come up at the top of my list. … Usually hitters want to make, not excuses, but reasons why you got out that at-bat. With Mariano, he’s so good that you can only just say, ‘He just beat me.’ You can’t really have reasons why you got out. You just have to say, ‘He flat out beat me.’”

And because of stories like this.

“You always wonder how he gets people out so consistently,” Rob Segedin said after facing Rivera the first time Rivera threw batting practice this spring. “He’s special in that he can throw that pitch wherever he wants and it’s got that late movement. … Your first reaction is, this is going to hit me in the hip. And then all of a sudden, it’s right on the inside corner. You just tip your cap.”

And because of stories like this.

“I won’t say his name,” Joe Girardi said. “But I can really remember one guy who had incredible stats, left-handed hitter, and he said, ‘I don’t know why they even send me up there. The only place I can hit the ball hard is over our dugout.’ And their team was in the first-base dugout. At times it seemed like it wasn’t fair. That’s how good Mo was.”

[3]Obviously we got most of today’s notes out of the way with the injury update this afternoon. Here are a few leftovers.

• Talking to the Associated Press back in Tampa, CC Sabathia said he’s still encouraged by the way his elbow feels. “I am surprised how quick it came back once I started throwing,” Sabathia said. “Getting stronger every time out and not feeling any pain is encouraging.”

• Ivan Nova gave up a run today, but he was encouraged that much of the Cardinals contact ended up on the ground. “Base hits, but ground balls,” Nova said. “If I get the base hit on the ground, that’s good. That’s a good sign.”

• With the Mark Teixeira conference call and the Rivera news, I was focused on writing during much of this game, but I did look up to see Ronnier Mustelier make some decent plays at third. He looked better in the infield than I was expecting (I’ve heard he’s a better defensive outfielder than third baseman). I thought he looked alright, actually.

• Not surprising, but Teixeira said during today’s conference call that he and Curtis Granderson were supposed to be fourth and fifth in the Yankees batting order. I think that’s how most would have predicted it.

• Brett Gardner finally went hitless, though he did draw a walk.

• Dan Johnson had a hit today, but he also made his third error of the spring. Juan Rivera went 0-for-3. Those two are suddenly worth a lot of attention with the opening at first. In other roster battle news: Francisco Cervelli had an RBI single and a stolen base; Chris Stewart doubled. … Matt Diaz, Thomas Neal and Mustelier each had hits. All were singles. Almonte made an error, but I didn’t see it. Mustelier stole a base; Diaz was caught stealing.

• Ramon Flores played center field off the bench today. He’s done that some in the minors, but I don’t believe he’d done it in big league camp until today. With Slade Heathcott and Adonis Garcia hurt, I wonder if Flores might play there again tomorrow. In other prospect news: J.R. Murphy is still putting up numbers with his third double of the spring. … Brett Marshall allowed three runs on five hits through four innings. … Austin Romine had a hit and an RBI. He’s quietly gotten his average up to .286.

• Cool comment from Ichiro: “I really thought (if) I would go to the Yankees, that was really kind of a special moment where you could see the Yankees with Jeter at short and Mariano closing games. This year, I’ll get to experience that and see that for myself.”

Associated Press photo