Rivera pleased with ambassador role

Unable to pitch for Panama, closer visits club in Puerto Rico

Mariano Rivera (right, with Damaso Marte) is on schedule to pitch in a game on March 17. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Mariano Rivera was proud to hold his country's flag during ceremonies for the World Baseball Classic, but he really would have loved to hold a baseball.

As he continues to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, the Yankees' closer had to instead settle for donning a uniform and serving as an ambassador for Panama, paying a three-day visit to the Classic in Puerto Rico.

"It was good," Rivera said. "Knowing that I wasn't participating, it was kind of a little tough, but it was good to be there supporting your country."

Wearing a Panama uniform with his familiar No. 42 on the back, Rivera carried the red, white and blue flag onto the field at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium for the national anthem. An icon in his homeland and an inspiration to many young players, Rivera also sat in the dugout for the game.

"It was special," Rivera said. "It's one of those things -- being a competitor, you don't want to just carry the flag. You want to be on the field, but that was impossible."

While in Puerto Rico, Rivera threw a 30-pitch bullpen session and spoke about wishing he could have pitched, but it's not likely he would have made much of a difference. Panama was outscored, 18-0, in the two games it played before being eliminated by the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

Rivera threw another 30-pitch bullpen on Monday at Yankees camp, saying that he feels "right on track" in his recovery. Rivera is scheduled to pitch a batting-practice session on Wednesday and agrees with manager Joe Girardi's target date of getting into a Grapefruit League game on March 17.

"Everything will depend on how the arm feels, and so far, it has been feeling good," Rivera said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.