Morning Notes: Masahiro Tanaka's debut

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
11:17
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- The cream of the Yankees starting rotation -- CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and last but surely not least, Masahiro Tanaka -- threw simulated games, one after another, on a back field at The Boss starting at around 8:30 a.m.

All three went two innings, each threw 35 pitches, all of them faced the same trio of hitters: Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna and the fabulously named Zelous Wheeler.

Only one, of course, attracted much of a crowd: Tanaka, who as the closing act drew about 100 spectators, most of them Japanese media types but also a smattering of fans who came out to the park early on a day in which there will be no further activity on the field.

Tanaka was impressive once again -- Francisco Cervelli, who caught him for the second time this spring, called him "great" -- although both Anna (line single to center) and Wheeler (line drive to the warning track in left-center) were able to make some solid contact. Tanaka also made Wheeler look absolutely sick on one splitter that dropped off the shelf on him.

I'll have quotes from everyone involved in a little while -- all three hitters were very complimentary toward Tanaka, although Sizemore stopped short of saying he had never seen anything like Tanaka's split, as Austin Romine did the other day -- and explore a question that has been nagging at me, namely: Why are the Yankees protecting Tanaka so much and who's idea is it anyway?

Because for the third straight time, the Yankees enforced different media access rules when Tanaka pitches than they do for anyone else. The first time out, they drew a line in the samd and forced everyone to stand behind it. The second time, they limited a view of his bullpen session to what could be glimpsed through a crack in the fence. This morning, they barred the media from standing along the foul line on the field, an area that has always been accessible and no doubt will be again when anyone else is pitching.

The question is not so much about inconveniencing the media, but why someone in the Yankees organization thnks it is necessary to treat Tanaka differently from everyone else. I'll get some reaction from Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild (who is said to have been behind today's new rules) and maybe Brian Cashman to find out what's what.

Play date: No more workouts today because representatives from the MLBPA, including new executive director Tony Clark, are here to have their annual meeting with the players, followed by Joe Girardi's annual Team Bonding Experience. The Yankees are generally secretive about this, too, but the whisper is it's a trip to a local pool hall. Good thing Mariano Rivera is retired. Last time they did this, he fleeced them all in 8-ball.

Play ball: Tuesday is the first exhibition game of the preseason, here at The Boss at 1:05 p.m. against the Florida State Seminoles, who will be bringing along the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, who is an outfielder-slash-relief pitcher-slash-closer. Vidal Nuno will start, and no, Derek Jeter will not be playing. But maybe, just maybe, Girardi will tell us who is playing when he we meet with him this morning.

Glad to have him: Cervelli on the Yankees acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury: "When we got him I was the happiest guy here, because now he can't run against me anymore."
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146