By popular request, here is the list of this year’s Yankees guest instructors for the spring:
Billy Connors (36)
Goose Gossage (54)
Ron Guidry (49)
Reggie Jackson (44)
Hideki Matsui (55)
Lee Mazzilli (24)
Stump Merrill (22)
Jorge Posada (20)
Willie Randolph (30)
David Wells (33)
Mark Teixeira has arrived at Yankees camp. The first baseman discussed his recovery from right wrist surgery and expectations for the season this morning. Here’s a partial transcript:
On making it to camp: “I feel good. I’m excited about being here. No setbacks the entire offseason, the summer into the offseason, which is good. My surgeon was very happy and [head athletic trainer] Steve [Donohue] is happy. So I’m happy.”
On if the wrist feels as expected: “Yeah. The only thing is, I’ll just take it a little bit slow. I’m going to be taking normal batting practice, normal everything. It’s just, instead of 150 swings a day, it’s closer to 100 right now. Instead of seven days straight, it might be three days with a day off, or four days with a day off. That’s just being smart about it and not going from 60 miles an hour to 100 miles an hour the first day.”
On if his offseason was affected: “Not too much. I actually got to lift more, which was good. I feel like I’ve put on a couple of pounds of muscle, which is nice for me. My offseason started July 1st, and with the rehab and extra time, concentrating on my body and not worrying about resting, I got plenty of rest which was good. The first month or two of the offseason is just resting from a long season. I didn’t have that this year so I was able to work a little bit more.”
On if Teixeira expects to play a majority of the games: “I absolutely plan on playing 150-plus games this year. That’s my goal. Every now and then I’ll have a day off, of course. That’s just natural. You get beat up a little bit during the season, but I expect to have a healthy, productive season.”
On being an anchor of the lineup: “Yeah, I think the great thing is, look at our lineup. We’re back to being the Yankees again. Last year, we weren’t the Yankees. We had so many injuries and we had so many guys that should have been in there to be lots of anchors. That’s back. There’s not one guy that has to carry this team, but absolutely I expect to hit in the middle of the order, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. That’s going to take pressure off everybody and help us win games.”
On the offseason: “We had a great offseason. It was fun to watch. I was texting Cash [GM Brian Cashman] every two weeks, telling him congrats on another signing and a great offseason. I basically told him, you did your job, now it’s time for us to do ours. No excuses this year, we have a team that can compete for a world championship.”
On his plan: “We’ve kind of mapped out my whole spring. I’m going to get my 50-plus at-bats in Spring Training. I’m going to get as many swings as I need. It’ll be a little slow the first couple of weeks just to make sure I’m easing into things, but we’re here for six weeks. It’s not like you have a week to get ready for the season. We’re here for six weeks. It’s just a matter of keeping to the schedule.”
On resuming swinging: “I started swinging the first of January, which is when I normally swing. It was 20 swings from each side. Every week it was building up five or 10 swings. Now I’m to the point where I’m swinging about 45, 50 from each side, which is a little bit less than normal. But plenty of swings.”
On the wrist’s stiffness: “You can definitely tell I had surgery, but I had ankle surgery 13 years ago and I can tell I had ankle surgery after 13 years. It’s just something that I’m going to have to make sure that I loosen up and do all the proper rehab and strengthening exercises during the season to make sure that it’s not an issue.”
On if Teixeira still has any doubts: “Of course. I’d be lying if there wasn’t. I said it this winter, everyone can go out after major surgery and go, ‘I’m fine, I’m going to be good as ever,’ but you don’t really know that until you go out there. For me, it’s just kind of two steps: make sure I’m healthy and that means taking full swings at a 95 mph fastball in a Spring Training game. And we have six weeks to figure that out. If that’s the case and I’m healthy and I can do that for a week straight, then it’s all about production. You don’t worry about the injury anymore. Until I have those first couple of games, live Spring Training games, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to respond.”
What 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.
If you think about it, today marked the first of the hundreds of press conferences and interviews that Joe Girardi will give during the season — usually two a day during the 40-plus days of Spring Training, two a day for each of the 162 regular season games, and we’re not even counting his appearances on the YES Network and other news outlets.
So it’s safe to say we’ll all be hearing Girardi’s voice quite a bit for the rest of the year, but there’s only one official report day for pitchers and catchers. Girardi’s flight from New York to Florida was delayed by weather, so he went directly from the airport to the podium at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Here are the highlights of his 20-minute session:
What was your reaction to Derek Jeter’s announcement, and did you know it was coming?
“I had not heard before that, so I think we were probably all a little bit taken aback by it. You’re never sure how someone’s going to do it, but I had no inkling that that’s what he was thinking, so I was a little taken aback by it. I listened to some of his comments on the article that he had written about how more difficult to get ready and he said when it becomes more of a job than playing then it’s something you have to think about. I can remember a long time ago, Kevin Tapani telling me that it wasn’t the day he pitched. It was the work the four days prior to pitching that became so much more difficult for him. He’s played a lot of games and played a long time, and obviously he’s been so important to this organization. We’re going to miss him.”
Did you get a sense last year about how difficult it was for him?
“That was really clear. We all know how much he loves to be out there. Even when he was trying to fight through it, he would tell me he felt great. His words that he always uses to me: ‘I feel great.’ But you could see how frustrated he was that it just wasn’t healed completely. I’m looking forward to this year.”
You saw what it was like last year with Mariano Rivera… what will this be like?
“I’m not sure how he’ll do it. I thought Mariano, the way he went through it, was special. Mo was in a different situation because Mo doesn’t start to get ready until the fifth or sixth. As a position player, you can’t necessarily do that. I’m sure it’ll be a little bit different. I think watching Mo, he really enjoyed his final season, and I hope Derek is able to do that as well.”
You’ve had to transition established stars into the later phase of their careers. You don’t have to do that with him now. Is that easier on you?
“I don’t know if it makes it easier. It’s clearer. The picture is clearer. This is a guy that’s going to be hard to replace in your clubhouse and on your club. It’s the nature of the business where people age and they move on and they go and do different things in their life, and in our life it’s a little bit quicker than some of the other working people of this world. It’s not something that we’ll think about all year. ‘Is this going to be it? Is this going to be it?’ Because he said it’s going to be it. From that standpoint, that will be easier.”
Any sense how much he can play this year?
“I’ve said all along that he’ll basically determine that on how he’s doing and how he’s feeling. Obviously as a manager, you would love to be able to run out Derek Jeter out there every day, but we know that’s not the case and you don’t do that with many players today anyway. There will just be constant communication like it has been the last few years.”
‘Taken aback’ means you were surprised. Were you saddened or disappointed?
“Yeah. I was there in 1996 when he broke in as Rookie of the Year. And to be able to play alongside such a great player and be able to coach a great player and manage a great player has been a thrill for me — and what he’s meant to this organization. Yeah, I think about the guys that I played with that have retired while I’ve been the manager, these guys were really important to their club and it saddens you. I remember coming to spring training when Jorge wasn’t in that first group hitting. It was like shocking not to see him there. It’ll be strange next year without Derek. So it does sadden you, and you hate to see players get older, but unfortunately it happens.”
Will you resist the pressure to play Jeter more because it’s his last year?
“I’ve got to do what’s best for our team and best for him, is the bottom line. As I’ve said, he’s going to play as much as he’s capable of playing. That’s the bottom line for me. We want him out there, we want him out there every day. I know it won’t be every day, but I want to run him out there most of the time. I’ve just got to do what is best. I kind of had to deal with it with Mo a little bit, I had to deal with it with Andy a little bit. I’ll just do what’s best for our club.”
Do you know how much you can play Jeter?
“I think you’ll have a pretty good idea. At no point in Spring Training will I run him out five or six days in a row, but I think that you’ll be able to tell running him out there two and three days in a row how he’s responding and how he’s bouncing back. It’ll give you a pretty good inkling.”
What has it been like to manage the final days of the Core Four?
“It’s been a thrill. I think about playing alongside these guys and watching these guys go out on their own terms, it’s been pretty exciting. I feel like I’m really blessed to have that opportunity to manage these guys and watch them end their careers the way they want. You wish you could bring them back, and I joked with Mo when I saw him a couple of times at some events this winter, but I feel like I’ve been able to experience so many great things at the stadium because of these guys and I love it.”
Will Jeter hit second?
“That would be the ideal thing, if you could break up your left-handers, but we’ll just have to see. We’ll play with lineups during spring training.”
Did CC Sabathia’s weight affect his velocity last year?
“I think that could be part of it. I think not having a normal offseason because he was rehabbing his elbow is part of it as well. I can’t tell you exactly where his velocity is going to be, but the bottom line for his success is not his velocity. Obviously it helps a little bit, but it’s his location. I think he got behind the eight-ball a little bit because of the injury last year, but I think he’s had a normal winter. I think his location will be much better and I do think his velocity will be better, I do.”
Without Robinson Cano, do you have a ‘best hitter’ to build your lineup around?
“I think we have a collection of very good hitters this year. I think our lineup is much deeper than it was last year from top to bottom. There’s more balance with some of the switch-hitters; Tex coming back and Beltran. Having Soriano the whole year, bringing Jeet back, I think there’s much more balance in our lineup. But as far as having that one guy that maybe you center the lineup around, I would say no.”
Will Michael Pineda be the fifth starter?
“When we traded for him, we expected him to be in our rotation. He’s had some injury-plagued seasons the last couple years. Obviously you want someone to rise to the top to become the fifth starter. It’s an interesting year as a manager. I’ll say it tomorrow when I speak with the pitchers; don’t try to make the team in the next few days because there are some open spots. There is some really good competition here where you have the competition for the fifth starter, and the guys that aren’t necessarily the fifth starter could be in your bullpen. I want to make sure these guys aren’t pushing too hard, too early where they have a setback. If you have a setback, that could cost you a spot on this club. It’s really important to me that I stress to all these guys – Michael Pineda, Phelps, Warren, Nuno and all these young kids that have a chance to earn a spot in our bullpen – you can’t do too much in the next couple weeks. Get your arm in shape, get strong and then we’ll go from there.”
With changes all over, how is your job different?
“It’s trying to learn your pieces from a mental and a physical standpoint. From a mental standpoint, what gets them going, can you read when they need a day off, are they honest about when they need a day off? Physically, how many days in my mind should I play a guy? What makes me think that they need a day off? Bringing the guys close together as a team. A lot of times, people say, ‘What comes first? The chemistry or the winning?’ Winning can help chemistry a lot. We’ll do some of those things and I’ll pay attention to signs from players, try to listen really carefully and use some of my coaches and other people to find out sometimes what a player is really saying. I think that’s important.”
What are your thoughts on Masahiro Tanaka?
“I did spend some time watching video of him this offseason and watching his ability to turn it up a notch when he needed to. Being able to add velocity; to having a couple of different fastballs; a couple of different sliders, a curveball, a split, a changeup. I even saw him get a hit. I don’t know if that will come into play if he gets to in a National League ballpark. What I like is his competitiveness. I’ve been a guy that is careful about labeling people. Is he your No. 1 starter? Is he your No. 4 starter? Is he No. 5? Two? Three? I believe that every day, the guy that pitches is your No. 1 starter. That’s how I think of it, because that’s your guy. That’s your guy that day, and one of the other guys can’t really sub in for him unless you happen to have some days off. I like his ability. I like his competitiveness. Now it’s just making some adjustments to American baseball. We’ve seen where it’s taken American players a little time to adjust to New York. He seems to really enjoy the stage and the spotlight and being a big part of a club. Let’s give him a little time to adjust.”
Could Pineda begin the year in the bullpen?
“We envision him as a starter, but I think that when we take a look at this, we’ve got to see how he’s doing as a starter. Then, once we pick our starters, we’ve got to pick what we believe is our best bullpen. So the answer to that is, I think anything is possible, but we envision him as a starter.”
Who is your backup first baseman, and what reports have you received on Mark Teixeira?
“I would say right now our backup first baseman would be Kelly Johnson if Tex needed a day off, and he’s going to need some days off. Everything has been positive signs for Tex. At times I talked about, it’s one thing to go through minor league rehab games and your workouts and your BP, because it can be a little bit guarded. But it’s another thing when you get into a big league game and it’s not so guarded. So I think you just have to pay attention to what he’s saying and the signs that he’s giving off. But I feel pretty good about his wrist, and I’m really looking forward to having him back.”
Would you play Brian McCann at first base?
“It’s not something that we’ve talked about. I guess it could be, though.”
Why do you think David Robertson will be ready for the ninth inning?
“I think he has all the ability in the world. You think about closers, and you want pitchers that are strikeout guys, and that’s exactly what he has. I think for Robby, I remember coming in at a much smaller stage and you’re compared to someone (Mike Stanley). And then Tino was compared to Don Mattingly. And it’s important for Robby that he’s just himself, and that if something does go wrong one day, you’re going to be compared to Mo. You know what, I think Mo blew six or seven saves last year. Mo was human too, and you can’t get too caught up in just one game. I would love to say he’s going to go 45-for-45, but even the greatest closers of all time don’t do that. So for us, it’s just if it does become a media buzz or something, we just have to help him control it.”
Yankees pitchers and catchers are in the house, and Spring Training is officially underway. Here’s our first installment of report-day quick hits from the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field:
No pressure: Masahiro Tanaka arrived in camp to find that he had been assigned a corner locker on the pitchers’ wall, the closest stall to the dining area. That’s prime real estate in Yankee-land. For the past several years, it’s the same place where Mariano Rivera stashed his belongings.
“One of the staff members actually told me,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘I’m not really sure if I should be here.’”
Tanaka played catch on the field today and said that he had a chance to chat with Hiroki Kuroda.
“He told me, ‘Just be yourself. Try not to do too much, do your own pace and you should be OK,’” Tanaka said.
Captain’s call: Both CC Sabathia and David Robertson said they weren’t surprised that 2014 will be Derek Jeter’s final season, but they were caught off guard that Jeter decided to announce his decision so early.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Robertson said. “I just didn’t think he was going to announce it, but I’m really glad he’s going to make sure to give the fans a chance to come out this year and see him in his final season.”
“Not really surprised,” Sabathia said. “You want to think a guy like that is going to play forever. I’m saddened, I guess, because he’s not going to be around.”
CC slims: Sabathia said that he weighed in at 275 pounds this morning, which he guessed was his lightest report-day weight since he was with the Indians. Sabathia said he was closer to 285-290 last spring at this time.
“I really lost a lot of weight last year,” Sabathia said. “I went from about 315 to like 280. I just did no carbs and then really worked out. This offseason I watched my diet and worked really hard and I lost five pounds.”
iCatch: Brian McCann said that he received a special package in the mail from the Yankees in November, and it helped give him a head start in learning a new pitching staff this spring.
“I got an iPad in the mail two days later with everybody’s two good games, two bad games, all the hitters in the AL East,” McCann said. “As soon as we signed Tanaka, I got all his starts, so I’ve seen it. Now I want to get to know everybody and what their mindset is.”
New core? Not so fast: McCann shrugged off a reporter’s suggestion that he might be part of the equation in replacing Jeter as the face of the Yankees.
“I haven’t even played a game. It’s not the case,” McCann said. “I haven’t even put the uniform on yet. I think that word gets thrown around a little bit too much for me. No one is going to replace that guy.
“I got to see it first-hand with Chipper. No one is going to come in and replace Chipper Jones. It’s not happening.”
Mo’s stamp of approval: Robertson said that it was important to him that Rivera gave him a vote of confidence as the Yankees’ new closer.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Mariano and I think he knows what I’m capable of and he’s always told me what I’m capable of. I think I have the abilities to be the closer. It’s not proven yet. But I know in my heart I can do it, I just have to go out there and prove it to myself.”
What’s in a number?: The Yankees wasted no time re-assigning uniform No. 24, with Robinson Cano now a member of the Mariners. That number will be worn this spring by non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore.
Absent: The locker normally occupied by Alex Rodriguez is empty with no name plate. Rodriguez will be serving a 162-game suspension this season and does not plan to attend Spring Training.
You can’t tell the players without … a print-out of this 2014 Yankees numerical Spring Training roster, highlighted by the fact that the Yankees quickly re-issued Robinson Cano’s No. 24 to non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore.
2 – Derek Jeter
11 – Brett Gardner
12 – Alfonso Soriano
14 – Brian Roberts
18 – Hiroki Kuroda
19 – Masahiro Tanaka
22 – Jacoby Ellsbury
24 – Scott Sizemore
25 – Mark Teixeira
26 – Eduardo Nunez
27 – Shawn Kelley
28 – Joe Girardi (manager)
29 – Francisco Cervelli
30 – David Robertson
31 – Ichiro Suzuki
33 – Kelly Johnson
34 – Brian McCann
35 – Michael Pineda
36 – Carlos Beltran
38 – Preston Claiborne
39 – Brendan Ryan
40 – Matt Daley
41 – David Phelps
43 – Adam Warren
47 – Ivan Nova
48 – Matt Thornton
50 – Mick Kelleher (coach)
52 – CC Sabathia
53 – Austin Romine
54 – Kevin Long (coach)
55 – David Herndon
56 – Tony Pena (coach)
57 – Chris Leroux
58 – Larry Rothschild (coach)
59 – Rob Thomson (coach)
60 – Gary Tuck (coach)
61 – Jim Miller
62 – Robert Coello
63 – Yoshinori Tateyama
64 – Cesar Cabral
65 – Zoilo Almonte
66 – John Ryan Murphy
67 – Vidal Nuno
68 – Dellin Betances
70 – Russ Canzler
71 – Brian Gordon
72 – Corban Joseph
73 – Antoan Richardson
74 – Bruce Billings
75 – Manny Banuelos
76 – Jose Ramirez
77 – Francisco Rondon
78 – Slade Heathcott
79 – Nik Turley
80 – Jose Gil
81 – Ramon Flores
82 – Gary Sanchez
83 – Chase Whitley
84 – Mark Montgomery
85 – Bryan Mitchell
86 – Jose Pirela
87 – Francisco Arcia
88 – Danny Burawa
89 – Yangervis Solarte
90 – Shane Greene
91 – Tyler Austin
92 – Fred Lewis
93 – Dean Anna
94 – Jose Campos
95 – Adonis Garcia
96 – Pete O’Brien
97 – Mason Williams
98 – Zealous Wheeler
These statements were released via the Yankees:
Bernie Williams: “I’m so happy that Derek will get to go out on his terms — and his way. He was as special a teammate as any player could ever have. I’m blessed to have played with him. Yankees fans and baseball fans all over the world will have a lot to celebrate this season.”
Jorge Posada: “It was an honor and privilege to have Derek next to me for all those years. He made me a better player and a better person. I’m so proud of our friendship and I love him like a brother. Derek was a true champion and the greatest teammate I ever had.”
MLB.com’s Adam Berry was at the Yankees’ Minor League complex on Wednesday and thought Wednesday’s story of the day would be Masahiro Tanaka. He was wrong. Here’s a report.
TAMPA, Fla. — Before Derek Jeter announced his plans to retire after the 2014 season, Masahiro Tanaka was set to be the story of the day at the Yankees’ Minor League complex on Himes Avenue.
About 25 members of the Japanese media joined the usual crew of reporters outside the complex, awaiting the highly anticipated arrival of the Yankees’ new $155 million man.
As it turns out, Tanaka actually dropped by across the street at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees’ Spring Training home, where he played catch and spoke with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
As he was leaving Steinbrenner Field, Rothschild told a small group of reporters that Tanaka worked out then played catch and long toss and looked good doing so. Asked how Tanaka is handling everything so far, Rothschild quickly responded, “Excellent.
“I don’t know how many people can go through the week that he’s had,” he added. “It’s been great, but it’s got to be tiring to deal with everything.”
Rothschild said the Yankees hope to have the right-hander throw off a mound in the next couple days. New York’s pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Friday and have their first workout Saturday.
Rothschild added that Tanaka’s schedule will be determined “just according to what he’s used to, more than anything else. I don’t want to change a lot, but still try to ease him into the adjustments that he’s going to make.
“We talked for a long time today and went through a lot, which was the most important thing,” Rothschild added. “Just schedules, what he’s done in the past to get ready, the expectations as far as spring training and how the schedules look and things like that.”
The Yankees have released the following statements regarding Derek Jeter’s announcement to retire at the conclusion of the 2014 season:
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner: “Derek called me this morning to tell me that he planned to retire following the season. In our conversation, I told him that I respected his decision because I know he put a lot of thought into it. I also let him know that I thought it was great that he was letting fans know now so they will have a chance to say goodbye to him.
“He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever. He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and our family. I’m glad we have this year to celebrate everything he has meant to us and all the great things he still stands to accomplish.”
Manager Joe Girardi: “Derek Jeter has been a great representative of what the Yankees have stood for over the years. He has been a team player who has only cared about winning. He has also been a fine example both on and off the field over his long tenure as a Yankee. It has been a real pleasure to manage him and play alongside him.”
General manager Brian Cashman: “It has been an incredible honor having a front row seat for one of the great players of all time. Derek has been a winner every step of the way. I am already looking forward to an exciting final chapter of his storied career.”
Former big league pitcher and current YES Network analyst David Cone was one of the honorees at last night’s Thurman Munson awards dinner in Manhattan, and he mentioned that he has been busy studying video of new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Cone, who knows a thing or two about splitters, raved that Tanaka’s strikeout pitch will immediately make an impact.
“I don’t know if it’s the best split-fingered fastball in the world, but it’s certainly among the top five right now,” Cone said. “He has that kind of talent, in terms of velocity and movement. When you look at a split-fingered fastball, having thrown it for most of my career, I look at how late it breaks. The late movement and the velocity it retains. He has both of those. He has high velocity and late movement on that splitter, which puts it among the best in the world.”
Cone said that the Yankees will probably want to be creative with how they slot Tanaka on off-days, considering that he will be learning to pitch in a five-man rotation as opposed to once a week in Japan. Cone said that he believes Tanaka is ready to make those adjustments.
“All indications are that he’s a true professional and that he works extremely hard, and he comes prepared to pitch,” Cone said. “He’s really polished for a 25-year-old. When I was 25, I was still learning to throw a split-fingered fastball. He’s 25 and he’s got one of the best in the world. He’s ready for this challenge, in my mind. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch him.”
The YES Network will give fans the opportunity to see for themselves on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. ET, when they re-air Tanaka’s June 9, 2013 start for the Rakuten Golden Eagles against the Yomiuri Giants. Tanaka threw seven shutout innings in that game, logging the eighth win of his perfect 24-0 season.
YES analysts Ken Singleton, John Flaherty and Al Leiter recently viewed that performance and offered these takes:
“His fastball looks like it has a little more movement than I heard it did. It sinks in a bit on right-handed hitters; not enough to call it a sinker, but enough that the hitter will pay attention. He threw a lot of sliders-cutters in this game. It looks like he has a lot of confidence in it and he threw it for strikes when he was behind in the count. That tells me that this is his off-speed pitch that a catcher can call anytime and have confidence that it will be a strike. Kind of a get-me-back-in-the-count pitch.”
“His curve ball might not be a strikeout pitch, but it could be used for a get-me-over strike on the first pitch of an at-bat. The split looks like the best swing-and-a-miss pitch for him. I thought he would throw it more but he picked his spots in this game. You can see how a catcher will go to that pitch when the game is on the line.”
“His delivery is simple and he loads up on his back leg well. He is quick to the plate out of the stretch, so Brian McCann is going to love that. It also looks like he is a good athlete and fields his position well.”
“I was impressed with his control. He is constantly working the corners with all of his pitches. Tanaka has enough fastball, a good curve, a slider and a top-shelf splitter. He was not afraid to use his curve and slider when behind in the count. All his pitches were quality.”
“I think Masahiro Tanaka’s repertoire and stuff plays very well. His fastball velocity will sit at the 91-93 mph mark and occasional touch 95. He has a very good split that has great late action with good velocity. His split finger is his main secondary pitch and his slider is better than his curveball.”
“I really like his mound presence and disposition. He pitches with a fire in his belly and is emotionally involved.”
“I think Tanaka can be a front-end starter once he gets acclimated to the routine of American baseball.”