Day 4: Tanaka and more on a busy afternoon

tanaka2What happened: The morning started with Masahiro Tanaka throwing a 35-pitch bullpen beyond the right-field wall at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Tanaka impressed manager Joe Girardi with his fluid motion, and catcher John Ryan Murphy said that after hearing so much about the Yankees’ $155 million man, it was a thrill to get behind the plate and see his stuff in real time.

“What surprised me was, the effort level looked minimal and it was coming out really good,” Murphy said. “All the hype, obviously, with him coming over here — it was a neat experience. It was fun.”

Tanaka threw all six of his pitches in the session – two-seamer, four-seamer, splitter, cutter, curveball and changeup. Tanaka said that he is still shaking off the last of his international jet lag, and he hasn’t seen much of Tampa other than the ballpark and the hotel. So what has been the most fun part of being a Yankee so far?

“I think that would be pitching in the bullpen, because I love to throw,” Tanaka said.

And then: Tanaka had left the complex by the time Yu Darvish’s news conference made a ripple in Yankees camp. Speaking in Surprise, Ariz., Darvish made a comment about Tanaka’s seven-year contract that he’d quickly backtrack from.

“I don’t know too much about the new posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him too much,” Darvish said, with a smile and a laugh. “I think [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Hisashi] Iwakuma and I really helped him as far how the scouts and teams evaluated him.”

Darvish’s tone got lost in the quote, which quickly popped onto Twitter and other outlets. Darvish later released this statement via the Rangers’ public relations department: “I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today. I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking.”

Oh, and then: Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Daily News on Sunday that he had been frustrated by his inability to get through to Robinson Cano about those slow jogs to first base.

“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long told the newspaper, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’

Those comments made it to Mariners camp, where Cano essentially said that he didn’t care to talk about it. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t shy, telling “I’m a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees. I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book [“Cage Rat”] proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”

Told of that quote, Brian Cashman laughed. “I would expect Lloyd McClendon to step up for his player. That doesn’t surprise me,” he said.

What we learned: Most people probably assumed it already, but Jacoby Ellsbury got the word from Joe Girardi – Ellsbury is the Yankees’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. Girardi had left a little bit of wiggle room when Ellsbury was officially introduced in the Bronx over the winter.

What we learned II: Kelly Johnson brought three gloves to camp. That’s a good idea — he’s not only the Yankees’ tentative starting third baseman, but also their backup second baseman, backup first baseman, and a reserve left fielder.

What we learned III: Brendan Ryan is big on the Los Angeles Clippers, which puts him in a good frame of mind to know what the fans will be thinking when Ryan is playing instead of Derek Jeter this year. Ryan said that he attended three Clippers games this season where Chris Paul was hurt … so, he gets it.

What else: Girardi said that there have been no discussions about keeping Tanaka from facing American League East teams during Spring Training.

What they said: “I was just catching some sun, to be honest. It’s so early; as long as everybody is free and easy, there’s really not much to tell from the bullpen sessions or batting practice. It was just a chance for me to come out try to turn white into red.” – Cashman, on watching Ivan Nova’s live BP session.

What’s next: Position players report to camp on Wednesday, but the big event of the day will happen in the pavilion at 11:30 a.m. ET, as Jeter discusses his decision to retire. The news conference can be seen on, as well as the YES Network, MLB Network and ESPN. 

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