Friday, February 21, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka certainly drew a lot of hype over the winter leading up to his signing with the Yankees, and it will continue to be that way until he pitches in his first major league game this season -- his first start will likely be against the Houston Astros during the opening series of the year.

And even though he's only thrown a handful of time so far this spring, the compliments just continue to roll in.

Tanaka threw his first live batting practice session today, and yep, you guessed it, people had nothing but great things to say about the $155 million 25-year-old.

"As good as advertised," said Brian McCann, who caught Tanaka for the first time. "He’s got a great split. It really falls off the table. His motion’s completely the same as his fastball, and that’s the key to getting swings and misses."

Austin Romine was one of the hitters to face Tanaka today, and he was almost left speechless when he first saw his highly talked about splitter.

"I think he threw a split and I had to turn around and ask what the pitch was," Romine said. "I’ve never seen a ball move like that before. I haven’t had the chance to catch him yet, but from a hitting standpoint, like I said, I’m glad he’s on our team."

"It really falls off the table," McCann said of the pitch. "His motion’s completely the same as his fastball, and that’s the key to getting swings and misses."

Today was the first time that Tanaka had faced live hitters since the final game of last year’s Japanese playoffs. He guessed that he was throwing around 70 percent, and came away happy with the results.

“I felt really good out there,” he said. “It was the first time I had batters in the batter’s box, but I felt really good out there today.”

Tanaka has not yet been told when he will start pitching in spring games, which begin next week, but he says that he'll be ready for whenever his first action might be.

“I don’t think I need that many live BP sessions,” he said. “I’d like to get into games more and try to build my arm strength through games.”

** CC Sabathia said that he went Alabama during the offseason to Dr. James Andrews’ facility in Alabama to have his mechanics analyzed and stored in a database. It was something that he had done 10 years ago with the Cleveland Indians, and wanted to compare between then and now.

"It’s the same as it was 10 years ago," Sabathia said. "… Pretty much, except the rotation in my hips. You get old. You get bad hips when you get old, right?”

After working extremely hard throughout the winter, Sabathia came into camp weighing 40 pounds lighter than he has in the past.

"I threw all offseason, so I’m ahead of where I was last spring, maybe even the spring before, just from all the work I’ve been doing," Sabathia said. "I’m encouraged by the way I feel. My arm angle seems to be good, getting the ball out, my arm just needs to catch up with the rest of my body."

He threw 25 pitches of live batting practice Friday and that he couldn't find the strike zone very often, but feels much better on the pound after dropping weight and having a full year to recover from his elbow surgery last offseason.

“I felt great,” Sabathia said. “My legs felt great, didn’t get tired, so I’m actually excited. I know it wasn’t the prettiest, but it felt good.”

** Yankees manager Joe Girardi will announce on Sunday who he plans to start in the early slate of spring training games that start with Florida State University on Tuesday, followed by games with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday and Thursday.

The early signs so far, based on who has been throwing lately, point to David Phelps and Vidal Nuno each getting a start next week.

** Girardi has said that Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and Romine will battle it out for the backup catchers job behind McCann this season, but he may have also hinted that Cervelli currently has the upper-hand in the competition.

"You’ve got three guys vying for that spot that played for us last year, so obviously there’s some competition there," Girardi said. "You’re looking for the best player, but [Cervelli] has got more experience than all of them and he played very well in the short time that we had him last year."

If you remember, Cervelli won the job last spring, but played in just 17 games in 2013 because of a broken hand that he suffered early in the season, and then a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

Also, the fact that Romine and Murphy have options could come into play. “That’s something that’s always brought up,” Girardi said. “Obviously, we’re in this thing to win it so we got to do what we feel is best.”

** Alfonso Soriano missed his second straight day of workouts for what is being called the flu. Soriano was seen in the weight room earlier in the day, working out a little bit.

"He's a little better today than he was yesterday," Girardi said. "We hope to have him out there tomorrow."


 Gavin Ewbank is the Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @GavinEwbank.


Post a Comment