New York Yankees hurler Masahiro Tanaka looked sharp in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.
The 25-year-old Tanaka (24-0, 1.27 ERA), who signed a seven-year deal worth $155 million with the Yankees on January 22, allowed two hits and fanned three batters over two innings.
Perhaps most impressively, Tanaka threw 22 of his 32 pitches for strikes.
“He looks very good, very professional pitcher,” a scout who watched Tanaka said. “Above-average velocity. He has an idea how to pitch. The splitter tumbles. If I was the Yankees, I’d be very happy about what they got.”
Drawing interest from multiple organizations, Tanaka was extensively watched in 2013 by Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler and scout Don Wakamatsu.
A five-time NPB All-Star who earned the 2011 Eiji Sawamura Award, Tanaka commanded a $20 million posting fee and netted the fifth-highest contract ever for a starter.
Primarily using a slider, splitter and a fastball that reaches 97 mph, the 2007 Pacific League Rookie of the Year amassed 95 wins, against 35 losses, with a 2.32 ERA.
Tanaka also whiffed 1,210 batters over 1284.0 innings.
New York went 85-77 last season and failed to qualify for the playoffs for only the second time in the wild-card era.
Recalling past busts Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu, many analysts understandably think the Bombers should have avoided Tanaka like herpes.
After all, there are far more examples of Daisuke Matsuzaka than Yu Darvish.
There’s no question that Tanaka, who struggles throwing out of the stretch and lacks a vast array of pitches, has great room for improvement.
Nevertheless, seemingly decades removed from capturing their 27th World Series championship, Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda form a solid staff.
Backed by a healthy Derek Jeter and new acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, it’s unlikely that Masahiro Tanaka will regret relocating to One East 161st Street.
Similarly, badly needing another arm, the Yankees should “be very happy about what they got” from Japan.by