There was no Metallica over the speakers and no one-run lead to protect late on a Bronx night, but Mariano Rivera was on the mound all the same.
For the first time since that fateful attempt to shag flies in Kansas City, Rivera threw off a mound and came through the session without any issue involving his surgically repaired knee. He didn't say he was all the way back to full health, but he said and looked like he was darn close to being the pitcher that baseball missed for almost all of last season.
One day in February offers no guarantees for what's going to happen once summer rolls around. Rivera could get hurt again or he could have lost a little something because of the knee injury or he could even fall victim to the decay of age that has hit just about everyone else.
All of those things could happen, but it makes much more sense to focus on things that actually do happen. Right now, what's happened is Rivera has gotten back on the mound and restored a little bit of familiarity to a Yankee team that has seemed disconnected from its past during the offseason.
Just as the Yankees have moved further and further away from their status as the lead dog in Major League Baseball so has the perception of their ability to win big this season faded into a much less confident status. Rivera's return doesn't eliminate that, but it does make it a bit harder to assume all is lost.
After all, how could all be lost when the great Rivera is still on the mound to calmly deliver exploding cutter after exploding cutter at opposing hitters who can't hit it even though they know it's coming? The sense of calm provided by Rivera's presence is one that radiates out through the entire team and you could almost feel it happening on Wednesday as he flung his pitches to a minor league catcher who had to be pinching himself.
The concerns about the quality of this year's Yankees team suddenly don't feel so insurmountable and the flaws elsewhere on the roster seem a lot less gaping. Rivera's been the closer for teams with sketchier talent than this one and all but one of them has made it to the playoffs, something that offers a little bit of perspective at a moment when those around the Yankees appear to need some.
Rivera's return also serves as a reminder that the very reasonable questions about the age of many key Yankees are being asked about some very, very good baseball players who have been some of the best players of their generation. That makes things a little brighter and a little lighter after an offseason that veered way too close to the somber for way too long.
As good as Rafael Soriano was whenever Joe Girardi called his number last year, he never was able to make that kind of psychological impact on the Yankees. He was just a pitcher, but Rivera is a beacon.
It's a lot to put on one man, but there's just something about seeing Rivera on a mound that makes it easy to believe that all is right with the baseball world.