TAMPA — The Yankees’ battery is already fully charged.
Staff ace Masahiro Tanaka and catcher Gary Sanchez look ready for Opening Day. Tanaka threw four perfect innings, Sanchez hit a two-run homer and the Yankees defeated the Tigers, 7-1, in a Grapefruit League exhibition game on Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.
Tanaka, who is slated to start his third consecutive season-opener on April 2 against the Rays, struck out seven — including the first six batters he faced (five swinging).
“I don’t know how much more he could’ve done,” Joe Girardi said of Tanaka. “He was great. It seemed like everything was working for him today.”
In his first three starts of the spring, Tanaka has thrown a combined nine scoreless innings, allowing three hits, walking none and striking out 13.
“Obviously, you want the results, but you can’t just look at them,” Tanaka said through a translator. “We have the World Baseball Classic — and not to downgrade anybody, but a lot of the good players are playing in the WBC — so the batters that you’re facing might be a little bit different, too. So in that regard, I think it wouldn’t really be safe to just look at the results.”
Sanchez went deep to right off Tigers lefty Daniel Norris in the first inning. He has hit four homers this spring. Sanchez added an RBI single in the fifth, and he’s been just as productive behind the plate, throwing out five runners trying to steal.
Tanaka has had good chemistry with his batterymate. All of his pitches were working — especially his two-seam fastball along with his curveball, slider and splitter — and he was able to put hitters away once he got two strikes on them.
“I thought they got on the same page fairly quickly last year,” Joe Girardi said of Tanaka and Sanchez. “I think they’re really comfortable together.”
Given the question marks throughout their rotation, the Yankees need another big year from Tanaka, who went 14-4 last season with a 3.07 ERA in a career-high 199.2 innings. Tanaka is hopeful he can get into the 220- to 230-inning range in 2017. He’s had arm troubles in the past, but has mostly been durable in his role as the 28-year-old ace of the staff. He can opt out at season’s end.
Tanaka may not be in the same category as Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer, but he’s extremely valuable to the Yankees. “Part of him maybe not being in that conversation is he hasn’t been an 18-, 19-, 20-game winner,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t thrown 230 innings in a season, but when you look at him, he’s vital for our staff. He’s really important for our staff.”
The Yankees also need Sanchez to deliver again after his unbelievable 20-homer, 53-game rookie season. So far, he’s looked dominant in the spring. The Yankees are hoping for a carryover once the games start to matter again.
Red-hot Matt Holliday added his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot in the fifth.
Published at Sun, 12 Mar 2017 06:02:45 +0000