TORONTO -- There has traditionally been very little for the Blue Jays to smile about while "Enter Sandman" by Metallica has blared from the Yankee Stadium speakers whenever Mariano Rivera has stepped onto the field during his illustrious 19-year career.
It's easy to see why, as Rivera entered Tuesday's game at Toronto with an 8-2 record, a 1.83 ERA, 53 saves and 106 strikeouts over 103 career innings against the Blue Jays.
But as Rivera stepped into the executive lounge at Rogers Centre on Tuesday to meet with 20 Blue Jays employees, there were more than just a handful of smiles.
The all-time saves leader delighted those in attendance during a 45-minute question-and-answer session that included a photo opportunity and a signed ball.
Rivera and Jason Zillo, the Yankees' communications and media relations director, addressed the room full of some long-time and deserving behind-the-scenes employees, including one who's been with the club since before it even had a name.
The 43-year-old Rivera answered questions ranging from his retirement plans to how it feels to stand on the mound and how he learned his famous cutter.
Rivera's most poignant and thoughtful answer, however, may have come as a surprise. Answering the final question, Rivera discussed what it was like to know late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, giving a brief glimpse of "The Boss" when the cameras weren't rolling.
Rivera called Steinbrenner "loyal" and "loving," adding that he wanted his players only to try their best, regardless of the outcome.
Rivera then told the story of the Yankees' dramatic loss to the D-backs in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. With Rivera on the mound in the ninth inning, Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez stroked a single past a drawn-in infield, plating the final run of the Series and saddling Rivera with a crushing loss.
After the game, Steinbrenner was the first to approach Rivera in the clubhouse at the ballpark that's now called Chase Field.
Rivera turned to Steinbrenner and told him he had done his best. Steinbrenner simply said, "I know."
It was a simple yet fitting way for Rivera to end the brief but lasting session.
On his way out, Rivera again thanked the group for everything they've done for baseball, then made his way down to the field to get back to what he does best.
A-Rod focused on wins, not milestones
TORONTO -- There did not seem to be much fanfare for Alex Rodriguez's 650th career home run, and the Yankees slugger does not seem to mind.
Considering what has transpired during Rodriguez's eventful first month back in a big league uniform, being able to fly under the radar seems like a nice change of pace. Or, as A-Rod put it on Tuesday, "Quiet is good."
Rodriguez, 38, connected with an R.A. Dickey knuckleball in the fifth inning of the Yankees' 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Monday at Rogers Centre, but he left the stadium without speaking to reporters.
With a day to ponder the milestone, Rodriguez said that there was still not much to say about it.
"It's hard to reflect on it right now," Rodriguez said. "We're in the middle of a pennant race, and we need wins like oxygen right now. I think at some time, there will be a time and a place to appreciate that. But it's probably not right now."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that Rodriguez's appeal of a 211-game suspension and the corresponding allegations of performance-enhancing drug use could be one explanation for why Rodriguez's 650th home run did not seem to be celebrated.
Girardi also noted that milestones with numbers in the hundreds tend to be more publicized.
"My thoughts? I haven't seen where 50s have been celebrated," Girardi said. "Hundreds have, or maybe when you pass a guy who's in front of you. It's not every day you see someone hit 650, but it seems like the hundreds are the ones people concentrate on more."
Rodriguez ranks fifth on baseball's all-time home run list and is gaining ground on Hall of Famer Willie Mays (660). Rodriguez's Yankees contract includes a $6 million bonus payable if he ties Mays.
"I can't really think about that right now," Rodriguez said. "Really, we need every victory right now. We need every game. That's my focus, and I've got to try to go out there and help my team win."
Girardi on Hughes: 'We'll see how it goes'
TORONTO -- There has been speculation that right-hander Phil Hughes might be skipped or removed from the Yankees' rotation, but manager Joe Girardi was not prepared to announce any changes to his rotation on Tuesday.
"We'll see -- we'll see how it goes," Girardi said. "We'll see what happens, make sure people are OK and see what we do."
Hughes absorbed another rough outing on Monday, allowing five runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings while taking the loss in a 5-2 defeat to the Blue Jays. Hughes said that he is not concerned about his job security.
"I don't think about those things," Hughes said. "I worry about what I can do every day I'm given the ball. Those types of things aren't really a concern for me."
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees have been trying to correct several issues with Hughes, who is 2-11 with a 5.12 ERA since May 15.
"For Phil, sometimes it's putting hitters away," Girardi said. "Sometimes it's his fastball coming back, getting too much of the plate. He's a fastball guy -- that's who he is -- but your location becomes very important when you're like that."
• When Derek Jeter (3,308 career hits), Rodriguez (2,919 career hits entering Monday) and Ichiro Suzuki (2,725 career hits entering Monday) were in the Yankees' starting lineup on Monday, they combined for the second-highest total of hits (8,952) by teammates in history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Only Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Zach Wheat of the 1927 Philadelphia Athletics had more, combining for 10,121 hits in the last game they started together. The two trios are the only in history to start a game with all three players having more than 2,500 hits.
• On this date in 1938, the Yankees played their fourth doubleheader in four consecutive days, sweeping the Indians by scores of 8-7 and 13-0. Joe DiMaggio tripled three times in the first game, and Monte Pearson threw a no-hitter in the second game.