Results tagged ‘ Masahiro Tanaka ’

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 ESPN.com: “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 MLB.com, as well as the YES Network, MLB Network and ESPN. 

David Cone: Tanaka’s splitter is world-class

Masahiro TanakaFormer 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:

John Flaherty

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.”

Ken Singleton

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.”

Al Leiter

“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.”

Mo, Pettitte, Robertson being honored tonight

The New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is holding its annual awards banquet tonight in Manhattan, and in addition to all of the major award winners from the 2013 season (MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, etc.), there will be some Yankees flavor to the event.

Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are being honored with the Toast of the Town award, while David Robertson will be on hand to pick up the Good Guy Award, as voted upon by the chapter’s members. It promises to be a star-studded event, and you can take a peek at the full lineup here.

Here’s Robertson talking with MLB Network about the event and more…

Now, because we’re long overdue for one, here’s a brief run-down on what’s happening in Yankee-land — just in case you’ve tuned out for what turned out to be a very, very busy week:

- Hey, Masahiro Tanaka is a Yankee! It’s hard to imagine you missed that story, but just in case, the price tag was seven years and $155 million, plus the $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka can opt out after the fourth year of the deal, and said in Japan that his goal is to win a World Series. The Yankees had the top bid, and thus secured the player.

He’ll slide behind CC Sabathia and could be the Yankees’ No. 2 or No. 3 starter to open the season. A brief scouting report, based upon things we’ve heard in our travels: great command, a fastball in the low-to-mid 90′s that can ramp up a few miles per hour more when he gets in tight spots, and a devastating splitter that looks like a fastball before it falls off the table. It’s a true strikeout pitch. You’ll also see a slider, changeup and curveball from him.

He’s been throwing his bullpens with Major League balls to help the adjustment process, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has been busy watching video of Tanaka’s starts for Rakuten. Tanaka will wear uniform No. 19, so that Chris Stewart jersey you bought last year can be recycled at last. Derek Jeter sounds pumped about the signing, essentially saying that pitching is the key to the kingdom.

- Joe Torre is going into the Hall of Fame with a Yankees cap. Since he’s being enshrined for his managerial career, it’s not like there was much of a debate here. Still, it’ll be good to see the skip get his day in Cooperstown. His speech should be a memorable one.

- Brian Cashman said that much of the heavy lifting is complete, but don’t be surprised if the Yankees make a few extra moves before getting down to Tampa. The bullpen and third base are two of their main areas of concern; they’re comfortable going with what they have, but will pull the trigger on something that makes sense. Third base right now is going to be some mix of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna and whoever else they can take a look at this spring. The bullpen could use another arm to get the ball to Robertson in the ninth.

What else?

Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams cracked the list of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. They had three in the Top 100 last year, as Tyler Austin dropped off the list. … Left-hander David Huff was sold to the Giants. He came off the 40-man roster to make room for Tanaka. … Hockey is happening at Yankee Stadium. Good weather for it. … Rupert Murdoch is preparing to take majority control of the YES Network, with the Steinbrenners retaining a 20 percent stake. … And I’ve got to bust out a suit tonight. That’s twice in a week, which is a lot for me.

Yankees expected to meet with Masahiro Tanaka

The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are officially underway. CBS Sports reported that Tanaka has touched down in the Los Angeles area and is preparing to meet with as many as a dozen teams by Friday, a group that is expected to include the Yankees. 

The Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox and Diamondbacks are among the other teams reported to be in the mix for Tanaka, who will likely command a contract in excess of $100 million. Any club signing the 25-year-old right-hander would also be responsible for paying a posting fee, capped at $20 million, to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Tanaka has been identified as the Yankees’ top priority at this time, continuing an offseason of heavy spending in which they have secured free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Teams may negotiate with Tanaka until Jan. 24. 

The Yankees are seeking to upgrade a starting rotation that is currently comprised of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova in the first three spots. A group of candidates including Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren would then compete to fill out the final two slots. 

Digging in for the new year

I need to pack up the ornaments and stow the Christmas tree away for another year; space is, as always, at a premium when you live in New York City. This is a long way of saying that I know we’ve got some catching up to do, closing the book on the holidays and trying my best to stop writing 2013 on all of my checks.

Here’s what’s cooking:

Hall Calls

We’ll have new Hall of Famers to celebrate this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, but I wouldn’t expect any of them to be wearing Yankees caps in Cooperstown. Mike Mussina has a strong case and I think that he’ll eventually get in, as voters consider the fact that he won 270 games while pitching in the American League East in a performance-enhanced era of slugging. All that time, his strongest supplements seemed to be either Mountain Dew or something covered in chewy nougat.

There’s plenty of analysis of his pitching career in the link I posted, so let me just share an anecdote here. Remember when Joe Girardi tried to ban sweets from the clubhouse in 2008? No one howled louder, or more often, than the Moose. I remember him sneaking in a few Krispy Kreme doughnuts and devouring them at his Yankee Stadium locker with satisfaction, something that still makes me laugh to this day. I believe the voters will eventually come around on Mussina, but not on the first ballot.

Don Mattingly got a contract extension with the Dodgers, but isn’t expecting a call this afternoon. Roger Clemens has said, quite accurately, that everything from here on is out of his control.

Who’s on third? I don’t know.

No, really. I don’t know. If we time-warped to April right now, I suppose the Yankees would have to go with Kelly Johnson at third base, but that’s a depth chart that still looks very much incomplete. They’d like to find someone to platoon with Johnson, and Mark Reynolds would make a lot of sense for that (Michael Young, I suppose, but less so). That market seems to have been slow-moving. I don’t expect Alex Rodriguez’s suspension to be completely thrown out by independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, not with the fireworks of last month, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see it be knocked down from 211 games to a lower number. That announcement could come any day now.

Gardner scores a Thurman

Brett Gardner is among those who will be receiving Thurman Munson Awards on Feb. 4 in New York; former Yankees David Cone and Jim Kaat are also on the list. In this awards and dinner season, you’ll also want to consider attending the New York BBWAA dinner on Jan. 25.

Talkin’ Tanaka

In case you missed it, former Yankees pitcher Darrell Rasner spoke to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti this week about his experiences pitching with Masahiro Tanaka. The Q&A is definitely worth your time. You can expect the Tanaka sweepstakes to heat up very soon, though I suspect the bidding might go all the way down to the Jan. 24 deadline.

I never knew I needed to have an 1989 Topps Jake Taylor card, but I do.

And a friendly reminder, as I stare out the window and consider if it’s worth upgrading to a North Face jacket: Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 14.

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