It seemed Mariano Rivera 's career might have prematurely ended the last time he visited Kauffman Stadium.
Baseball's all-time saves leader is back, and he's sticking to his routine, too.
Rivera returns to Kansas City for the first time since tearing his ACL there as the New York Yankees face the Royals on Friday night.
Last season was supposed to be the finale of Rivera's spectacular 18-year career, but the swan-song tour came to an abrupt end May 3 in Kansas City. While shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, Rivera's knee buckled and he crashed to the ground in obvious pain.
A torn ACL ended his season, but the 43-year-old closer is back for one more year.
"Nothing is going to change. I'm going to do what I love to do," Rivera said of shagging fly balls again. "Yes, I got hurt like this. But I'm going to enjoy it. It's nothing to regret."
Rivera is also planning to go to dinner with the Royals' doctor who helped him.
"We'll stop at a place he said was good," the 12-time All-Star said. "I'm just going to have the same fun that I have been having. The same fun I've always had. That's not going to put me down or say, 'You know what? I don't want to be here.' I want to be there. I want to be there and to enjoy, to see the doctor that took me to the hospital and say, 'Thank you.' I want that.
"It's not to feel sorry. It's to have joy, because I'm still doing what I love to do."
He's doing it superbly, posting a 1.88 ERA and converting all 13 save chances, extending his all-time record to 621. He's shut the door in each of the last two games as the Yankees (20-13) won two of three at Colorado, including Thursday's 3-1 victory.
Rivera has converted 35 of 37 save opportunities against the Royals (18-13), including 27 in a row dating to Aug. 18, 1998.
Phil Hughes (1-2, 3.60 ERA) will look to beat Kansas City for the fifth straight time. He owns a 1.93 ERA and 30 strikeouts in his last four starts overall, spanning 28 innings, after allowing nine runs in seven innings through his first two.
The right-hander turned in his best effort of the season Saturday, yielding four hits and striking out nine in eight scoreless innings of a 4-2 home win over Oakland.
"I feel like I'm kind of clicking right now," Hughes said. "I'm just happy that I'm starting to find my stride and hopefully we can maintain what I'm doing throughout the course of the season."
Royals manager Ned Yost felt keeping the same course wasn't a good idea with his team having dropped three straight entering Thursday, so he shuffled the lineup and Kansas City won 6-2 at Baltimore.
Alex Gordon was moved from the leadoff spot to third and responded with two hits, including a two-run homer. He's 7 for 17 with five RBIs over the past four games, homering in each of the last three.
"I just think the most important two spots we have in the lineup now should be manned by Gordy and Billy, three and four," Yost told the team's official website. "Everything else is kind of interchangeable, matchups, who's producing."
Butler has hit .378 with 10 RBIs in his last 11 games against the Yankees, and Gordon batted .346 in last season's seven meetings as Kansas City went 3-4.
Royals right-hander Wade Davis (2-2, 4.75) will seek his first win in four starts, having gone 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA over the last three with 10 walks in 14 1-3 innings. However, he's coming off his second quality start of the season, yielding one run in six innings in a 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
Davis is 2-3 with a 4.70 ERA in six starts versus the Yankees.
|New York Yankees|
|May 05, 2013||Eduardo Nunez||Day-to-Day||Left game - tightness in left ribcage|
|May 03, 2013||David Robertson||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|April 28, 2013||Kevin Youkilis||15-Day DL||Lumbar spine strain|
|April 28, 2013||Joba Chamberlain||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 27, 2013||Francisco Cervelli||60-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
|April 27, 2013||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right triceps inflammation|
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- There's no Derek Jeter to lean on right now, no Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira in the New York Yankees ' high-priced lineup to provide clutch hits and big home runs.
Nope, there are just guys like Lyle Overbay filling in with aplomb.
The low-key, aw-shucks Overbay hit a two-run homer and finished with five RBIs on Friday night, and Ichiro Suzuki also hit a two-run homer as the banged-up Yankees opened their only trip to Kansas City with an 11-6 rout of the scuffling Royals.
"Sometimes baseball doesn't make sense, and on a night we really needed some runs, we got them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Everyone seemed to help out tonight."
Overbay finished with a career-high four hits, Suzuki had three hits and Chris Nelson drove in a pair of runs for the Yankees, who gave Girardi his 500th win in pinstripes.
Girardi reached the milestone in his 844th game, one fewer than Billy Martin . The only Yankees managers to reach the mark faster were Casey Stengel , Joe McCarthy , Joe Torre and Miller Huggins .
"I've been blessed to have this opportunity," Girardi said. "As a child you dream about playing in the big leagues, and I don't know if you dream about managing, but as I got older, it's something I really wanted to do, and I got a great opportunity."
Phil Hughes (2-2) allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings, but still earned the victory for New York, thanks to an offense that awoke from a slumber against Wade Davis and reliever Bruce Chen .
The struggling Davis (2-3) allowed seven runs in five-plus innings as the Royals lost for the fourth time in their last five games.
"I made it look a lot harder than it should," Davis said. "When you don't command your pitches, you can make anybody look a lot better. I didn't execute my pitches."
Jarrod Dyson hit a three-run shot for the Royals, just the second homer of his career, and Mike Moustakas went deep in his second straight game. Alex Gordon also drove in a pair of runs.
But it wasn't enough offense to keep up with the Yankees, who scored six runs total during a three-game series in Colorado, but surpassed that amount with the first of five runs during the sixth inning Friday night that broke open what had been a tie game.
It was the first time New York scored 10 or more runs since April 9, and allowed the Yankees to improve to 20-9 since their ragged 1-4 start to the season.
"The guys stepped up big and gave me a bunch of runs," Hughes said. "Thankfully, I was able to bring my not-so-good game on a day we scored a lot of runs."
The Yankees came into the night with 42 homers, fifth in the majors, and wasted little time adding to the total. Suzuki followed a walk by Travis Hafner with his two-run shot in the second inning, and Overbay followed a double by Jayson Nix with his two-run homer.
The Royals got most of their deficit back on Dyson's three-run shot in the bottom of the second. It was his first home run since Sept. 27, 2010, a span of 376 at-bats.
"He came in most of the time. I got my foot down on it and I was just trying to square him up," Dyson said. "I barreled it up. It was a big hit at the time."
Davis ran into more trouble in the fourth, when Nix walked and Overbay drove him in with a double to make it 5-3. But the Royals answered again in the fifth, tying the game on a two-run double by Gordon, who has become the Royals' most reliable hitter.
The Yankees finally took control in the sixth inning.
Suzuki doubled and Nix singled to set up Overbay, who delivered his second double of the night. Nelson added a two-run single, and after Chris Stewart grounded into a fielder's choice, Brett Gardner 's RBI triple and Robinson Cano 's run-scoring single gave New York a 10-5 lead.
Moustakas added his solo homer in the sixth, but Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley retired the next seven Royals - six of them by strikeout. Boone Logan finished up a quiet ninth to preserve the Yankees' third straight win.
"The bullpens are so important, especially in the American League," Girardi said. "Our guys have done a really good job. Shawn Kelley stepped up tonight. We've had other guys. ... It's been guy after guy doing the job."
NOTES: Royals DH Billy Butler went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .236. ... Nix reached base four times. ... Royals RF Lorenzo Cain got hit on his left wrist by a pitch in the third inning. He remained in the game. ... INF Eduardo Nunez (ribs) hit in the cage before the game and was available off the bench, Girardi said. He did not play. ... New York LHP Andy Pettitte will start Saturday night against Royals RHP James Shields .