In the past, the Yankees have avoided letting their starting pitchers face American League East opponents in spring training. The theory is that pitchers lose some of the high ground when hitters gain experience against them, and so the Yankees have been hesitant to give up that advantage.
But Joe Girardi said today that he won’t necessarily follow the same philosophy when it comes to Masahiro Tanaka.
“I think it’s important that he see major-league hitters and has an idea of what he’s going to approach,” Girardi said. “You think about some early games, what are they going to see him, one at-bat? Maybe they’ll see him two at-bats. So I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge thing. We’ve got to get this guy comfortable pitching in surroundings that he’s going to be in, and I think that’s more important than a team not seeing him once.”
Just a matter of setting priorities, I guess. If Tanaka’s turn happens to fall on a day when the Yankees are facing a division rival, the Yankees have to choose which is more important: keeping him a mystery by sending him to pitch in a minor league game or giving him experience by exposing him to A.L. East hitters. I expected the Yankees to choose the minor league games, but I can’t say that I know for certain which approach would be most effective. He probably does need to see as many big league hitters as possible, but being a total mystery does seem to be a significant advantage.
Despite the desire to get Tanaka into major-league games, and despite Tanaka saying today that he wants to pitch in games sooner rather than later, Girardi said he’s not planning to push Tanaka into games faster than the other top four starters.
“I don’t necessarily think that he’s going to be necessarily in a game earlier than anybody else,” Girardi said. “I don’t. He’s going to get, basically, they usually get (about) six starts. He’s basically going to get that.”
Associated Press photo