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Spring Headlines: Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter return for Yankees; Cubs still expected to trade Carlos Marmol

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

The heart and soul of the Yankees are back after Mariano Rivera (torn ACL) and Derek Jeter (broken ankle) returned to action for the first time since suffering their serious injuries last season.

Both were considered highly successful.

We'll start with Rivera, who was called upon in the fifth and turned in a completely flawless inning in which he struck out Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson, both looking, Afterwards, the 43-year-old legend would indicate to MLB.com's Adam Berry that everything felt normal and went smoothly, which is all Yankees really needed to see and hear to begin with. The dominance was gravy.

"It was good to be back on the mound. I won't take it for granted," Rivera said. "It's been almost a year that I haven't been on the mound in a real game, so it felt real good, pushing off the leg good. I wasn't holding anything [back]."

Earlier in the day, Rivera made his retirement plans following the 2013 season official.

As for Jeter, he was penciled in as the designed hitter and went 1-for-2 with a single to left field on the very first pitch he saw. An impressed Rivera had just as much to say about that at-bat as he did his own performance.

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(AP)

"Amazing,'' said Rivera, "Swings at the first pitch, too. I'm surprised he didn't swing at the first pitch his second at-bat. That's him, though. That's what makes him special.''

Jeter also had a good test for his ankle while running the bases. He was forced out at second base on Ichiro Suzuki's grounder, but came away no worse for the wear after a hard slide.

"I wouldn't say peace of mind,'' he said. "It felt good to be back, but my mind's always been at peace. It just felt good to be out there. When he [his doctor] said my ankle was completely healed, what else is there to worry about?''

Jeter is expected to return to his customary shortstop sometime this week, which is pretty much the final hurdle in his comeback.

Carlos Marmol's days remain numbered: The Chicago Cubs already had a deal in place that would have sent closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Dan Haren back in November, but that one fell apart for a number of different reasons. Now comes word from the Chicago Sun Times' Gordon Wittenmeyer that the Cubs still intend on moving their closer — even informing his agent of their plans — but it probably won't happen until he reestablishes some value.

Marmol himself has yet to comment on this latest update, but he did offer some comments to Carrie Muskat on Friday. I imagine those still hold true, for now.

“I don’t worry about that,” Marmol said Friday. “I just keep working here.”

The rumors may continue all spring.

“I can’t make that decision. The boss guy makes the decision. I can’t worry about that. The only thing I have to worry about is being ready every time they give me the ball.”

Does Marmol think he’ll be traded this year?

“I don’t believe anything,” the right-hander said. “I come here, work out, and whatever decision they make here, I don’t have anything to do with it.”

I don't blame him. I have a difficult time believing Cubs trade rumors, too.

Mike Matheny set for surgery: The St. Louis Cardinals skipper will be leaving the team after Sunday's game to undergo a procedure on his ailing back, reports.Jennifer Langosch of MLB.com.

The procedure, which is called a microdisectomy, will help alleviate the pain that has been caused by a ruptured disc. A fragment from the disc that is pressing against a nerve will be removed.

The Cardinals are hopeful that this procedure will provide long-term relief for Matheny. The second-year manager received temporary relief from an epidural shot on Monday, but that had worn off over the last few days.

No wonder Matheny changed his mind on home plate collisions. The Cardinals expect Matheny to return to the team on Wednesday. Here's to hoping the surgery gives him the relief he's seeking.

Video of the Day: I believe we've reached the portion of spring training where everybody starts getting bored with exhibition games and anxious for the real ones to begin. Well, aside from those participating in the World Baseball Classic, but even then it could be a toss up.

I think that has to be the case, or else I don't know how else to explain this spoof of the “World’s Most Interesting Man” commercials that was produced by Los Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier and narrated by broadcaster Charley Steiner.

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