Day 1: Masahiro Tanaka is off and running

Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan NovaWhat happened: The Yankees held their first official workout of the spring for pitchers and catchers on Saturday morning in Tampa, highlighted by a bullpen group that was comprised of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. The bullpens went fine, with Tanaka throwing 32 pitches, but Tanaka said that he had trouble with the four lap run (approximately one mile) that concluded the workout.

“I actually didn’t know that I was going to run this much,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’m a little bit of a slow runner, but that part I really can’t help.”

Tanaka said that his first workouts of the spring in Japan were typically longer, so he was expecting to throw more and he did fine with fielding practice. Chalk it up to one of those cultural adjustments that we’ve been talking about. Joe Girardi and the Yankees crafted the camp that way; Girardi stressed that he only wants his pitchers to build arm strength this week, and that no one is making the roster based upon the first bullpen.

What we learned: To give a rough estimate, the media crowd for Day 1 of Yankees camp seems to have doubled from last year, and obviously that’s due to Tanaka’s presence. Tanaka is used to having a lot of attention, but even he was a bit caught off guard by the crowds waiting on the practice field.

“Honestly, when I stepped out on the field today, I was very, very surprised how many media there were out there,” Tanaka said.

That group typically thins out as camp goes on, but that actually may not be the case this year. One Yankees staffer said it was the largest crowd of media members that he could remember since Hideki Matsui’s first spring.

What we learned II: Kuroda asked Tanaka if he’d like to be his throwing partner for the day, something that Tanaka said he hopes will continue whenever possible. Tanaka said at his Yankee Stadium press conference that he grew up tracking Kuroda’s career, so it must be something of an honor for Tanaka to hear that request.

(Hearing that Tanaka watched Kuroda as a boy also probably serves as a reminder for Kuroda that he’s entering his age 39 season.)

“I think it’s advantageous for Tanaka to have Kuroda here and making those adjustments,” Girardi said. “Because you’re looking at someone you probably watched pitch over there, in the big leagues there, and here. You saw him make the adjustment and how he did it, and that’s advantageous. There’s probably a natural bond there because of where they’re from, and that’s good for us.”

What else: Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy is now going by his full given name, which is printed on his clubhouse locker. Murphy explained that his father’s name is also John, so their family and friends have always used middle names to differentiate between the two.

It was only when Murphy entered professional baseball that J.R. began to be used. Teammates of the 22-year-old, who played in 16 games for the Yankees last season, are just calling him “Murph.”

What they said: “He’s going to get used to that. When the whole team comes here, it’s going to be the same for everybody. He’s not the only guy who makes $100 million here.” – Francisco Cervelli, on the attention paid to Tanaka.

What’s next: The second day of workouts for pitchers and catchers will get underway Sunday morning. Expect to see the guys on the field shortly after 10 a.m. ET.

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