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Roberts happy to be a face in Yankees' crowd

The SportsXchange

The New York Yankees aren't really asking Brian Roberts to replace departed All-Star Robinson Cano.

In reality, they spent oodles of money with the hope that newcomers at other positions -- catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury -- would compensate for Cano's absence in a deeper and more balanced lineup in 2014.

Roberts, though, will start the season following Cano at second base -- where the $240 million Mariner made five All-Star teams and won two Gold Glove awards after arriving in the Bronx in 2005.

"When you play here, even though you're taking over for Robbie, I still don't think anyone is expecting or thinks that I have to go out and do a ton," Roberts told the New York Daily News. "They just want me to be on the field with a uniform on for the most part. The rest is icing on the cake."

Roberts, 36, made two All-Star teams in 13 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, but none since 2007. Due to various injuries, he managed no more than 265 at-bats in any of the past four seasons, appearing in just 192 games.

"He's been a featured guy in the lineup for a long time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was a pest. Being on this side, there were big situations you didn't want him to come up."

Roberts also is relishing blending in among the Yankees' cavalcade of big names and no longer having to be the face and spokesman for his team.

"It's just different to be the guy in the back that nobody cares about or knows about," Roberts said. "I understand that I'm 36 and very few guys are that guy at 36. I don't really need that, I don't really have any interest for it, and I don't care.

"I just want to win some games and have fun playing baseball."

NOTES, QUOTES

--SS Derek Jeter's announcement that he would retire after the 2014 season didn't surprise longtime teammate Andy Pettitte, who retired for the second time last fall. "We talked obviously a lot about it last year," Pettitte said. "When we'd be talking, he'd be like, 'Y'all better retire or I'm going to get out of here before you guys.' You kind of look at him like, 'Yeah, right, whatever.' But I kind of had a feeling. I just saw a little bit of a difference in Derek last year, as far as seeing me and (Mariano Rivera) go through the last year."

--LHP CC Sabathia, coming off a season in which he posted a career worst 4.78 ERA, saw his fastball top out at 88 mph in his first spring start. "My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will. If it's not, it won't," Sabathia said. "I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy, I'll be good."

--RHP Ivan Nova, the Yankees' likely No. 4 starter, had an impressive start to camp, according to manager Joe Girardi and new C Brian McCann. "There is no ceiling on a guy like him," McCann said. "He can do whatever he wants. If he gets into a groove, he can ride it out for a full season. Certain things click and players take their game to another level. He's looking really good down here."

--RHP David Robertson says he is concentrating on getting in his work during spring training, not on replacing retired legend Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer. "Just get back out there and get the feeling back of having players behind you, no net in front of you," Robertson said after his first spring outing on March 3. "All in all, it was a decent outing. I would have liked to have thrown a few better pitches, but I'll get another chance."

--SS Brendan Ryan, who will serve as SS Derek Jeter's primary backup and a utility infielder this season, was clipped by a line drive near the base of his left thumb March 5, but he avoided a serious injury. "I was lucky," Ryan said. "Could have been a much worse spot. Pretty scary, kind of escaped one there."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a little pressure, because I know the legacy and the man that carried No. 42. But I said, 'Well, I'm going to take it as a challenge and give my best so I can make Mr. Jackie Robinson proud.' I took it seriously. And I think I did OK." -- RHP Mariano Rivera, on being the last player in baseball history to wear No. 42. The number won't appear again after Rivera retired last fall.

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