Masahiro Tanaka threw his first spring bullpen today. With Larry Rothschild watching and Francisco Cervelli catching, Tanaka threw a 25-pitch mix of four-seamers, two-seamers, split-fingers and sliders.
“It was good,” Rothschild said. “He’s still trying to catch up, I think, with the time change and everything. We’re just trying to ease him into things right now, but everything is good. You can see the arm strength and everything else, but we’re going to go slow with him.”
Cervelli guessed that Tanaka was throwing at about 60-percent effort.
“But the fastball travels so well, his mechanic is so smooth,” Cervelli said. “… When you see those kinds of (Japanese) numbers, that’s ridiculous. Like 24-0 and 1-point-something (ERA). We know this is the big leagues, but they all come and show what kind of pitchers they are. Every time we face Darvish, it’s hard to hit that guy. And I think the other hitters say the same thing about Kuroda. So it’s going to be fun. I hope he can win more than 20.”
The video above is a little bit of Rothschild discussing his first real taste of a Tanaka bullpen. It’s too early to have firm impressions at this point, but it’s a first step.
“He threw in Japan,” Rothschild said. “He threw three or four sides, so after we signed him, he got on the throwing program that we used during the winter and kind of stayed with that. … He’s come here wanting to make adjustments, wanting to get used to the schedule and the baseball and the mound. It’s more difficult when you try to do what you’ve done your whole career, when you’ve thrown large sides with lots of pitches, to try to adjust to that fifth day. I think the mental part of it is the biggest thing. If you’re willing to make those adjustments, I think it’s a lot easier. You have to re-train your arm a little bit. He’s had workloads and things like that, so I think the adjustments are going to be made. It’s just a question of how long it takes. There’s no way to answer that until you see it.”
Rothschild said he’s trying to moderate Tanaka’s schedule to kind of ease him into the every-fifth-day routine of the big leagues. The Yankees want some input from Tanaka on the things he’s done to stay healthy up to this point, and what changes feel comfortable along the way. Up next, Rothschild said, is probably another bullpen on Saturday.