After scouting him for years, studying extensive video this offseason, and now seeing him first hand for more than a month, I’m not sure the Yankees are learning huge amounts of information each time Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound. He’s still a bit of a work in progress in terms of adjusting to major-league hitters, but at this point, the Yankees have a pretty good idea of what he’s all about.
If they learned anything today it was what to expect from Tanaka on a day when he’s just not very good. Not bad, necessarily. Just not real good.
“I felt that it was really obvious that I had good innings, and I had bad innings out there today,” Tanaka said. “The innings that I felt were good, I think I had first strikes a lot. But on the other hand, the innings that I gave up runs, I think it was the other way around.”
Tanaka pitched 5.2 innings. Three of those innings were perfect 1-2-3 frames. The other three included eight base runners and three runs (granted, one of the runners reached on an error, another was thrown out with a caught stealing). Tanaka left the game with a runner on second base, and Fred Lewis left that runner stranded.
“I’ve seen him sharper,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought the first three innings he struggled a little bit with his command. He got it back in the sixth inning. Gave up a couple of runs, but overall I was pleased because I didn’t think he had his great stuff today, but he held them down. … That’s what you want to see, because you’re not going to have your great stuff every time you go out there, and you’ve got to find a way to get it done. And that’s what we he did today. That’s good.”
A leadoff double led to a first-inning run, a near grand slam fell just short of the wall in the third, and Tanaka allowed a two-run double in the sixth. That double came two batters after Tanaka struck out Joe Mauer on a 3-2 cutter (Tanaka thought he had the strikeout looking on a 2-2 slider that just missed).
It wasn’t his best outing, but it wasn’t a bad outing. Against a fairly representative Twins lineup, Tanaka pitched well enough for his first spring training win. His next spring start will be shorter — basically just a tune up before his regular-season debut — so this was, in a lot of ways, his last big test heading into the season. It was basically what the Yankees have come to expect.
“Anytime he got into a little problem, he put a little extra (on the next pitch),” Francisco Cervelli said. “I know now what he’s able to do, and it’s good, man. I think during the season he’s going to be more aggressive because (there will be) 50,000 people, and it’s New York.”
· I spent seven years working with Donnie Collins in Scranton. He’s as good as they come, and he has all of the key information from the minor league complex this afternoon. It’s all in one handy blog post that should be a must-read for the nuts and bolts  of some young guys and a long list of big leaguers who pitched at Himes today. Here are a few bullet points, but click on that link, Donnie has all the real details:
1. Hiroki Kuroda went six innings with seven strikeouts in the Triple-A game. He got better as the game went along and retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.
2. Matt Thornton, Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne, Dellin Betances, and Cesar Cabral each pitched a perfect inning in the Double-A game. Graham Stoneburner then threw three perfect innings. The spring perfecto slipped away when Robert Coello allowed a triple in the ninth. Coello struggled in big league camp as well. Has an awesome forkball, though. Still intriguing, at least to me.
3. Russ Canzler played again and hit a homer. Jose Pirela also hit one. … Corban Joseph told Donnie that he’s going to play some third base and some right field this season. … Brian Gordon had seven strikeouts in three innings. Wonder if he’s being stretched out to start in Triple-A.
· Jacoby Ellsbury went through all the hitting, fielding and running drills that he was supposed to do today at Steinbrenner Field. “He had a good day,” Girardi said.
· Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch and hit by two foul tips. Just another day in his life. Seems like that dude gets banged up every time he plays. Cervelli, of course, said he’s fine. He’s also always smiling (as long as he’s not being sent to Triple-A on the last day of camp; he didn’t smile that day).
· Ten guys have tried to steal on Cervelli this year, and he’s thrown out five of them. Today’s caught stealing was initially ruled a stolen base, but the Yankees got it overturned through replay. Dean Anna made a nice tag on an awkward slide. “Thanks Anna,” Cervelli said. “It was not the throw that I want, but it was out.”
· From the time Girardi asked for a replay to the time the umpires reversed the call was a total of 44 seconds.
· What caused Tanaka to fall behind in some counts? He said it had to do with balance in his mechanics. Asked why he was off balance, Tanaka said he’d rather not going into detail, so there’s that.
· Fred Lewis and Shane Greene are two young guys really making a strong impression this spring. Lewis retired a lefty to strand a base runner in the sixth, and Greene pitched a three-strikeout eighth. I don’t think either one will break camp with the team — too many long relievers for Greene, no 40-man spot for Lewis — but they should be on the call-up radar.
· Box score notes: David Herndon was supposed to pitch yesterday. Instead he pitched a scoreless inning today. … Yoshinori Tateyama allowed his first run of the spring. It was a solo homer. He struck out the other three guys he faced. He’s been really good this spring. Tough arm angle from the right side. … Two hits apiece for Zelous Wheeler and Zoilo Almonte. Wheeler is hitting .344 and Almonte is hitting .406. … Another single by Yangervis Solarte pushed him back ahead of Cervelli for the highest batting average in camp. He’s hitting .471. … Scott Sizemore had a two-run single. He’s played well when he’s played, but limited at-bats and no 40-man spot might make it harder for him to break camp. Dean Anna, who also had another hit today, is on the 40-man and would be my guess as the guy who breaks camp in Brendan Ryan’s spot.
· Final word to Girardi about Tanaka: “Pretty much what I thought he was from watching film on him in October, and studying his tapes, seeing what he’s got. He’s pretty much what I thought he was. He knows how to pitch, and he’s got a strike (zone) split and a swing-and-miss split. And he can add and subtract from his fastball. He can sink it. He knows how to pitch. Holds runners. He does all the things he has to do to be successful.”
Associated Press photos