TAMPA – It’s only spring training, and most of the guys he faced today will play in the minor leagues this year. But Masahiro Tanaka now has a Major League record. He has three Ks in two innings pitched in the bigs and a not-too-shabby ERA of 0.00.
On a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon in Tampa, sun shining brightly and temperature in the seventies, the New York Yankees’ latest multi-million dollar baby worked the fifth and sixth innings of an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies in a sold-out Legends Field.
Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, with only one previous regular season game in the bigs, drew the honor of being the first Major League batter to take his hacks against Tanaka. Quickly down 0-2 on a good fast ball and an even better splitter, Rupp then singled sharply to center on a hummer that got too much of the plate.
After the hit, Tanaka settled in and got two easy fly balls to left and then his first Major League K against Cesar Hernandez. Tanaka's second and final inning of work was similar. This time two Ks sandwiched around a looping single to center.
Tanaka is said to have seven different pitches, an extravagant number for one pitcher. But for his first day on a big league mound he featured the fastball and splitter. His hummer topped out at 94, but it is said he can dial it up a bit when the occasion requires. The splitter, which is his out pitch, looked nasty. Of course no conclusions can be drawn on the basis of 32 pitches. But Tanaka and the team that will pay him a gaudy amount of money to throw baseballs should be pleased with the day’s work. And the people in Japan who got up at 0400 to watch Tanaka’s first big league work can now take a nap.