MLB Notes: Rivera pitches first simulated game

MLB Notes: Rivera pitches first simulated game
March 1, 2013, 9:00 am
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Mariano Rivera threw 18 pitches in his first simulated game since undergoing knee surgery last June. (USA Today Images)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was all smiles after throwing 18 pitches Thursday in his first simulated game since knee surgery last spring.

"I feel good," Rivera said. "I feel real good. Getting stronger and stronger."

The 43-year old pitched one inning against Yankees' minor leaguers. He also fielded and covered first base.

"That's what I wanted to do, field some bunts, go after some balls in between first and the mound," Rivera said.

Rivera pitched in nine games last year, his season ending when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while tracking down a fly ball during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3. He had surgery on June 12 (see full story).

Not much hope for Astros, Marlins
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Spring training is supposed to be a time of hope.

Unless you're the Houston Astros. Or the Miami Marlins.

With no-name rosters and in the midst of massive rebuilding jobs, Houston and Miami are more likely to be remembered as among the worst teams in recent history than make an improbable run at the playoffs.

The Astros lost 107 games last year, after 106 defeats in 2011. Houston's main goal will be trying to avoid becoming the first team since the expansion New York Mets in the 1960s to lose at least 106 games in three straight seasons.

"No one expects us to do well," Lucas Harrell said Thursday, after pitching in a spring training game against the New York Yankees. "So, when we do well, it's going to be kind of like, `Oh, wow.' I definitely think we have a chance to shock a lot of people this year."

Brave words, especially when the Astros face the additional burden of moving from the NL into what looks like the toughest division in baseball, the AL West. They'll be matched regularly against two 2012 playoff teams -- Oakland and Texas -- plus the high-priced Los Angeles Angels, who have three of the game's most dynamic players: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout (see full story).

Beltran, Westbrook hurt in Cards' win
JUPITER, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran and Jake Westbrook limped to the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse moments apart Thursday, which made manager Mike Matheny glad it was still only February.

Beltran bruised the little toe on his right foot when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning of the Cardinals' 8-2 victory over the Miami Marlins. Westbrook bruised his left leg below the knee on a grounder hit by Casey Kotchman in the second inning.

Beltran's X-rays were negative, but he said the injury was painful, and he was unsure whether it would affect his plans to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Westbrook didn't undergo X-rays.

Beltran scored after being hit then left the game (see full story).

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