Masahiro Tanaka said he’s not sure how close to game-effort he was during today’s live batting practice session — hard to say whether he was throwing at 70 percent or 90 percent effort — but he doesn’t believe he needs many more practice sessions before he gets into an actual exhibition.
“I just feel that I’m pretty much ready to throw in a game,” he said.
Tanaka was up to 35 pitches this morning — same for CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda — but Joe Girardi said he’s still not ready to announce when exactly Tanaka will get into a game this spring. The weekend seems to be the absolute earliest possibility.
“You’re still trying to see, does a guy want one more BP or does he feel that he’s ready to go?” Girardi said. “It’s not etched in stone. … I think you want to see him out there against big league hitters, see how he does and see how he reacts. I’m happy with the progress that he’s made and how he has not tried to do too much. I think he’s adapted to what we’ve asked him to do, and I think he’s kind of embraced it. I do want to see him out there.”
Girardi said he’s mapping out a spring training rotation that should give Tanaka a few more starts on extra rest than the other guys in the rotation. Tanaka will pitch on four-days rest sometimes, but the Yankees want to ease him into the Major League rotation schedule, which means not forcing him into an every-fifth-day routine from the very beginning.
“I’m just saying he might throw on his sixth day as opposed to another guy might throw on his fifth day,” Girardi said. “They all during the course of the next 35 days, they all have points where they’ll go on their sixth day because you’re trying to build them up as their pitch count increases. Some of it has to do with off days and just getting everything mapped out. He might get one more extra time.”
This is the second time that Tanaka has indicated that he’d like to get into games sooner rather than later.
“Some of the offspeed pitches, there were some swing and misses, so I did feel good about that,” he said. “But it’s really too early to determine (how well he’s doing) at this point in time. … It’s really hard to say what percentage I was going to. All I can say is I was throwing naturally out there.”
· Tomorrow is the Yankees spring opener against Florida State. Vidal Nuno gets the start for the Yankees. Girardi said Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson are each scheduled to play in the game. Those should be the biggest names in the Yankees lineup.
· Actually, the biggest name in tomorrow’s game might not be one of the Yankees. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is a pitcher for Florida State. “I imagine he’s going to look pretty big in that uniform,” Girardi said. “I’m excited to see him. It’ll be fun tomorrow. … Obviously he’s extremely athletic. When you watch him play the game of football, he’s got a great arm. He’s pretty mature for his age, as an athlete and what he had to go through and handle, and I’m excited to see him.”
· After watching Tanaka, Sabathia and Kuroda pitch this morning, Girardi said he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen from his top three starters this spring. “Just consistency of location, consistency of maybe a slider or changeup or split; different pitches that they’re working on,” Girardi said. “The first thing you get going is your arm strength, and then you start trying to incorporate your other pitches, and you’re seeing more consistency in those other pitches.”
· Any one thing stand out that Girardi has learned about Tanaka? “His command is really good, of all his pitches, not just his fastball,” Girardi said. “His command is good with all his pitches.”
· By the way, when coaches and players talk about all of Tanaka’s pitches, they’re basically referring to six pitches: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, split-finger, curveball, slider and cutter. Tanaka has a changeup, but he rarely uses it. Girardi said he’s literally not seen it a single time this spring. He’s seen Tanaka’s changeup on film, but not in person. “(Using it in games) is up to his discretion and if we feel that he’s needs it,” Girardi said. “I’m not so sure that he really needs it.”
· Girardi on the Gardner contract extension: “Excited. I like what he brings to the table, offensively, defensively, and just his clubhouse presence. I like it. The way he plays the game, he’s a grinder.”
· Speaking of outfielders, how exactly does Ichiro Suzuki fit into this mix? “We signed a number of outfielders as free agents, and things have a way of working themselves out in spring training,” Girardi said. “Exactly how he fits in right now I can’t tell you, but my job is to keep everyone fresh, healthy, and contributing, and I’ll have to figure that out.”
· Still speaking of outfielders, Alfonso Soriano was in camp today. “I know he was supposed to do some light work in the weight room and some cage work, but I was out watching the pitchers so I’m not sure (what he did),” Girardi said. “He said he feels much better. He was smiling, which was good. He ate and kept it down, which is good.”
· Obviously Soriano is a few days behind the other guys in camp. He won’t play in games right away. “We’ve got to give him a few days to work out and see some pitching,” Girardi said.
· The Yankees spent the afternoon playing pool as a way to get to know one another. You know it’s a non-workout day when Derek Jeter is hanging out in a Michigan t-shirt showing absolutely no signs of trying to get ready for anything remotely baseball related. It seemed that even some of the young guys never had to change into their baseball gear.
· Figured either Eduardo Nunez or Scott Sizemore might get into tomorrow’s game, but both said they didn’t think they were playing tomorrow. Sizemore does sound pretty encouraged by his health and early performance. “Managing to hit a few line drives around there every once in a while,” Sizemore said. “Feeling pretty comfortable at the plate, and I’m sure it will continue to get better the more pitches that I see.”
· Just for the fun of it, I’ll take a total guess at tomorrow’s lineup. This is almost entirely wild guess work:
Brett Gardner LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Kelly Johnson 3B
John Ryan Murphy DH
Zoilo Almonte RF
Russ Canzler 1B
Corban Joseph 2B
Dean Anna SS
Mason Williams CF
Associated Press photos