First Pitch: 36 saves for No. 42?

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
6:00
AM ET
Each morning, from now through Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and I will play the over-under game with you to get you ready for the regular season. On Monday, Wally looked into if Derek Jeter will play 120 games or not. Today, I take a look at another Yankee legend's 2013 prospects.

So far this spring, Mariano Rivera has thrown five scoreless innings and given up three hits. He has struck out nearly half of his outs -- 7-of-15 -- and walked only one batter. The new Mariano looks like the old Mariano.

"I don't think it is fair to say I expect it," GM Brian Cashman said. "All he has produced is greatness. Do I expect it? At his age, coming off of a knee, I have no idea. All I know is he looks fine in spring training."

Rivera, 43, does indeed. Entering his final major league season, the question coming into camp was Rivera's health. He crumbled to the ground nearly 11 months ago and hasn't pitched in a regular season game since. In the spring, it has hard to tell anything was wrong with him.

When Rivera agreed to a contract this offseason, he said he is not only coming back, but he is coming back to win. The question when you consider if Rivera will have 36 saves or not may come down to opportunity. Will the Yankees give him enough save chances to reach that goal? Plus, how conservative will Joe Girardi be with Rivera, trying to conserve the old man for the long season.

Rivera has had 36 or fewer saves in seven of the 16 seasons he has been closer. In the glorious season of 1998, he had 36 saves. In 2000, on the way to another title, he had 36 saves. So this seems like a good number to place Mo's saves line.

I believe Mo will go out in style in 2013. While the Yankees may not make the playoffs, I think Mo will not be the reason why. I'm projecting him for 35 saves. So I'm taking the under, but that is because I think his chances might be a little more limited than in years' past.

UP NOW: Vernon Wells will save the Yankees money on the luxury tax in 2014. He will be the starting left fielder in 2013. Plus, Derek Jeter got some treatment.

ON DECK: The Yankees play the Astros at 7:05 p.m. at Steinbrenner Field. Wally will chronicle it. We also could get the word that the trade is official, though, he may not be done until Weds.

QUESTION: Will Mariano Rivera finish with more or less than 36 saves?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 70
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .750
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAH. Kuroda 3.77
SOH. Kuroda 137