BOSTON -- The last time Mariano Rivera heard cheers at Fenway Park was Opening Day 2005. The Red Sox had just hoisted their first championship banner in 86 years, advancing to the World Series after toppling Rivera's Yankees in an epic seven-game American League Championship Series.
Rivera laughed off the cheers that day, even doffing his cap to the largely pro-Red Sox crowd. The fans returned the favor in the ninth inning on Saturday, offering the retiring closer a standing ovation as he entered for the ninth inning of the Yankees' 5-2 win over Boston.
"Yesterday, when I was going to the bullpen, they did the same thing," Rivera said. "It's like an appreciation, I guess. It's great, though. They do that, acknowledge you knowing that you've been there for so many years."
"I think it's the class of the fans here," manager Joe Girardi said. "Even though there's been a lot of history between Mo and the Red Sox, a lot of times he's been in games that are extremely important, and I think they understand what Mo has done and what he's meant to the game. And I'm sure Mo is appreciative."
After a period of struggles against the Red Sox that included games at the height of the rivalry, Rivera has straightened out his issues with Boston, striking out two around a bloop single to convert his 12th straight Fenway save opportunity on Saturday -- a streak that dates back to June 3, 2007.
"I always love to pitch here. Always," Rivera said. "Yankee Stadium is home, but when I come here, this is a great game. We play big, big games here. It's always good."
Rivera said that he had "a great day" at Fenway Park on Saturday, and it extended beyond the nine innings on the field. He met with a dozen Red Sox fans and employees in a skybox above the third-base side on Saturday, hearing their inspirational stories as Rivera's "Mo-ment of Thanks" tour continued.
J.P. and Paul Norden, brothers from Stoneham, Mass., who each lost part of their right legs in the Boston Marathon attack, had the chance to interact with Rivera, as did 13-year-old Harry Clark, a Jimmy Fund patient from Wellesley, Mass., who developed an inoperable brain tumor in 2009 but continues to cheer for David Ortiz and his teammates.
Rivera said that he was also touched by his meeting with 19-year-old Fernando Morales, a Jimmy Fund patient from Norwood, Mass., who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2011 and recently relapsed. Unable to continue playing soccer and running track, Morales has turned his attention to furthering his education.
"It was wonderful," Rivera said. "He's not giving up. He's going and doing different things. That's what it is all about. It was wonderful, beautiful. We had a great time."
Mesa, Neal brought up to boost Yanks' depth
BOSTON -- The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle delivered two more players to the Yankees' clubhouse on Saturday morning, as outfielders Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal joined the big league club at Fenway Park.
In corresponding roster moves, the Yankees placed outfielder Zoilo Almonte on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle and designated infielder Alberto Gonzalez for assignment.
"We probably see Thomas more as maybe a DH against some left-handers, and Melky more as an outfielder against some of the guys," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We'll use them both, and [Brent] Lillibridge and [Luis] Cruz can play anywhere in the infield, so we're covered there."
Girardi said that Almonte is traveling to Tampa, Fla., and will have an MRI performed on his ankle there. Almonte injured his ankle stepping awkwardly on first base while trying to beat out a second-inning double-play ball in Friday's 4-2 loss to the Red Sox.
Mesa, 26, was hitting .249 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 65 games at Triple-A. It is the second stint with the Yankees this year for Neal, 25, who was batting .314 with two homers and 29 RBIs in 66 Triple-A games.
When Mesa appears in a game, he will become the 46th different player to appear in a game this season for the Yankees, surpassing their total from all of last season.
"I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the guys, most of the guys; we've had a lot of them in Spring Training," Girardi said. "It's probably harder on the clubhouse guys."
Girardi: Nunez can be productive bat for Yanks
BOSTON -- It has been a disappointing year thus far for Eduardo Nunez, who came into Spring Training locked in for a big opportunity as the Yankees' everyday shortstop with Derek Jeter unavailable due to injury.
Nunez then lost 56 games himself with an oblique strain, and when he has been in the lineup, he has struggled offensively. Owning just four hits in his last 18 at-bats entering play on Saturday, Nunez started his long climb back by going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and a stolen base in the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Red Sox.
"I think I'm not a .200 hitter," said Nunez, who raised his batting average from .207 to .226 in the contest. "I work hard in the cage every day. I know it's going to be coming. I think I work hard every day to do that."
Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he believed Nunez was jumping at the ball too much, a problem he didn't seem to have once Saturday's action got underway.
"That's the thing about being a hitter. It can change real quickly," Girardi said. "You get to go out there the next day, where if you're a starting pitcher, sometimes you've got to wait five days. Nuney came up huge for us today."