TAMPA, Fla. -- The problem was with Mariano Rivera's knee and never his arm, so the Yankees' closer expressed no surprise that his 30-pitch bullpen session flowed so smoothly on Saturday.

"I always tell you guys that I trust myself," Rivera said. "I trust God first, then I trust myself. I'm capable to do this. I was expecting this. It feels good. Everything feels good."

Rivera completed his work off the mound while wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired right knee, which he said is not bulky and feels almost like he is pitching with a tight sock on.

The 42-year-old said that he is not worried about getting into shape to close out save opportunities this season. He will be back on a mound Tuesday after two days off, but Rivera said he is paying close attention to his progress in daily pitchers' fielding practice and looks forward to actual game conditions.

"I will be looking for the games," Rivera said. "The reason why is because you have to react there: bunting, comebackers, cover first, all that stuff. You can't think, you have to react. That will be, I would say, the biggest test."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed, saying that while he is confident Rivera will be ready on April 1, he wants to see the all-time saves leader on the field before he makes that assumption in concrete.

"Mo's been throwing for a while, so I feel pretty good about it," Girardi said. "But I want to see Mo in a game have to break for first."

Girardi said that Rivera will not appear in games until later in March. Even though a pair of gray pants hung in his locker on Saturday, Rivera will be excused from making all Spring Training road trips, as usual.

"There's no rush," Rivera said. "We have a long, long, long Spring Training. I want to take every day one day at a time, and take as much [time] as I need to be in that position to be ready to field balls and cover bases and all that stuff. No rush; I have no rush."

CC has butterflies during first bullpen session

TAMPA, Fla. -- CC Sabathia has done his share of making professional hitters feel uncomfortable over the years. But on Saturday morning, it was the Yankees' ace whose nerves seemed a bit jangled.

Sabathia admitted to some jitters as he climbed the bullpen mound for a 29-pitch session, the left-hander's first time back on the hill since having arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow in October.

"I got a little nervous when I first got up there, just because it's the first time doing it," Sabathia said. "I hadn't been up there and didn't know how I was going to feel. I immediately felt good and felt comfortable after the first couple of pitches."

Sabathia joked that he "probably didn't throw a strike" in the session, which included several bounced fastballs and changeups, but said that lack of command is normal for this point in the spring.

"[It takes a] couple of bullpens, two or three, before I'm starting to feel a lot better with the delivery and making sure I'm doing everything to keep the ball down," Sabathia said.

Sabathia's next bullpen session is scheduled for Tuesday, and he said that he will begin throwing breaking balls on flat ground before sprinkling them in off the mound.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Sabathia is not expected to appear in a Grapefruit League game until the first week of March.

"To me, the big thing is that he feels good [on Sunday]," Girardi said. "CC takes his bullpens always a little bit slow. He's in no hurry."

Bombers bits

• Position players are due to report to camp on Sunday, with the Yanks' first full-squad workout set for Monday. That presents a quick turnaround to get players in game action, and Girardi expects that the hitters are "going to be a little bit rusty" as a result. Girardi said one concern is making sure the position players have enough time running the bases wearing their spikes before games begin.

• The Yankees anticipate that all 84 invited players will be on time for the first full-squad workout, except third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has been instructed to continue his rehab from hip surgery in New York and will not join the team at any point this spring.

• The Yankees have not yet decided on their probable starting pitchers for the first exhibition games. Several candidates have already progressed to pitching live batting practice, including right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren, who did it on Saturday. New York opens its Grapefruit League schedule on Feb. 23 against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.