Exactly how good is Masahiro Tanaka? We know he can pitch. Tonight we find out if he can hit.
“(I am) a little bit scared,” Tanaka said.
Actually, Tanaka’s looked alright during pitchers batting practice. He, CC Sabathia, David Phelps and Alfredo Aceves were taking batting practice in Anaheim this week, and Joe Girardi said the Yankees have had their starters taking occasional swings for about a month so that this series and the upcoming sets against the Mets, Cubs and Cardinals are not a complete change of pace. Tanaka went deep a few times off pitching coach Larry Rothschild a few days ago.
“If it was Larry (pitching for the Brewers), I would be excited,” Tanaka said.
Of course, it’s not. Tanaka will face Yovani Gallardo, Sabathia will match up with Kyle Lohse, and Phelps gets Matt Garza. We all know Sabathia loves to hit. Phelps, who hit a BP home run on Wednesday, said he’s just hoping to get an opportunity to bunt because he feels comfortable doing it (and because a bunt would mean the Yankees have runners on base).
“We’re going in to play a team that’s playing extremely well in Milwaukee,” Girardi said. “They’re pitching extremely well and not giving up a lot of runs. I think they have the best record in baseball, so I don’t know how much history (of interleague success) is going to help us. Playing the National League team, it’s different, especially when you go to their ballparks and your pitchers are expected to hit. I know some of our guys are excited about that. I’m not so sure how excited I am about it.”
Actually, this Yankees team seems fairly well constructed for a National League series. Their regular designated hitter is perfectly comfortable in the field, their bench includes a lot of versatility to handle late-inning double switches, and recent additions Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson are familiar with the N.L.
“When you have a couple guys that are used to DHing, even though it’s not like pinch hitting, it’s similar to pinch hitting because you’re getting ready for your at-bat,” Girardi said. “I try to give our guys plenty of time (to get ready for a pinch hit opportunity). Here’s the situation that’s coming up and it’s probably time for you to go get loose and start thinking about the at-bat. I think that does help.”
Associated Press photo