Standing in the Yankees clubhouse last night, I asked five guys — most of them pitchers — one specific question: What’s stood out to you about Masahiro Tanaka?
It wasn’t until I got back up the press box that I realized each player focused on something different: his consistency, his leadership in the depleted rotation, his confidence, his intensity and his vast number of weapons. Here’s what each guy said after the latest gem by the Yankees unquestioned ace.
“Him going out there every fifth day knowing he’s going to deep in the ballgame. Every time he’s there he’s just competing, giving the team a chance to win. Every time I see him, his stuff is just unhittable pretty much. He goes out there, commands all his pitches and it’s a tough at-bat, I bet. Especially, I mean, he was throwing 96 or whatever the last pitch (last night). Guys don’t even know what’s coming. He’s impressive every time I see him out, it wows me every time. It’s pretty crazy.”
“He’s really good. He’s been an anchor for us. He’s been that horse that you can rely upon. Especially since CC’s been gone and losing Big Mike early – and Mike was throwing real well – he’s been really good. He’s been composed, and he stays in the strike zone.”
“Other than just his ability, just his intensity on the mound. You see him get mad going 2-0 on a guy. He expects excellence with every pitch. Just the competitor he is, how competitive he is, really sticks out to me. … I remember one outing we won, I think we were in Chicago, he didn’t think he pitched as good as he should have. I told him good job and could tell he was upset. I was like, ‘Why are you mad?’ He was like, ‘I didn’t pitch well.’ And we won. He expects a lot out of himself, and I think that’s what makes him so good. He’s that intense.”
“He has no fear. He commands everything. He gets ahead. Also, he has that filthy splitter that nobody has and that no one has seen so far. He doesn’t show anything. He just goes out there and competes, and he’s just like everyone else, just trying to help the team win. That’s what we’ve been doing.”
“I don’t know if there’s one thing. He can beat you with so many different pitches. He’ll go days and not throw a particular pitch. He’ll go days when he he’ll throw that pitch a lot. I think he’s out there, and there’s scouting reports and there’s things that you want to do, but I think he goes with what’s working for him. And if it’s working for him, it’s tough to hit.”
Associated Press photo