LAKELAND, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka’s glove-shaping mallet might be the most interesting piece of equipment inside the Yankees’ clubhouse.
Tanaka can often be founding sitting at his locker, using the mallet to soften his glove’s leather pocket and break it in. “A lot of guys in the clubhouse ask to borrow it,” Tanaka said through his translator. “So I guess you don’t see it much over here.”
Tanaka got the mallet from his glove maker, Mizuno, after he turned pro. He uses at most two game gloves per season. “It doesn’t take long to break them in,” Tanaka said. “I like them a little stiffer. It’s just the way I like it.”
Tanaka continues to work on his gloves — just as he continues to work on his pitches heading into his third consecutive Opening Day start on April 2 in Tampa.
On Friday, the 28-year-old righthander threw 4.1 no-hit innings against the Tigers in the Yankees’ 3-0 three-pitcher combined exhibition no-hitter. He walked his first two hitters of the spring in the first inning before eventually settling down and striking out six while throwing 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes. In his last two starts, hitters are 0-for-25.
“I’m somewhat satisfied,” said Tanaka, who felt like his command on Friday was “all over the place.” “I felt that I wasn’t at my best, but I was still able to put up some zeroes, so that part I’m satisfied with.”
During the spring (four starts), Tanaka, who can opt out of his contract at season’s end, has recorded 19 strikeouts in 13.1 scoreless innings while allowing only three hits.
“I feel like I’ve been pitching well this spring training,” Tanaka said. “And on top of that, the results have been there, so I feel like I’m on the right track.”
Joe Girardi has been extremely impressed with Tanaka’s put-away splitter.
“I would say the splitter is the key to his success,” Gary Sanchez said through a translator. “And I keep seeing the same splitter from him, with the same sharpness.”
Last spring, Tanaka was returning from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.
“He feels healthier and I think he’s gotten more accustomed to what we do here,” Girardi said before the game. “The schedule and each year he’s adjusted better to throwing on the fifth day. I think his body is more prepared for it.”
Last season, Tanaka went 4-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 starts on regular rest, 8-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 13 starts with an extra day of rest and 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts with two-plus extra days of rest.
“The hard thing is — and I understand why I’m questioned about it — but MLB doesn’t allow me to add another player. You have to deal within the parameters of five starters and seven relievers,” Girardi said. “When we can get him the extra day, we do it, just like all of our other starters. If you’re playing 15 days in a row, it’s kind of hard. And if you want to spot start someone, bring someone up, well now you’re messing everything else up. That’s the problem.”
Tanaka, however, isn’t ready for Opening Day just yet.
“You still have to build up your stuff,” he said.
Published at Fri, 17 Mar 2017 21:05:46 +0000