Afternoon Notes: Brett and the Imposters

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
3:15
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees will play their first preseason game Tuesday against the Florida State Seminoles at The Boss, but don't expect to see too many guys you know very well.

Manager Joe Girardi said he expects only Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and newcomer Kelly Johnson to be in the starting lineup when left-hander Vidal Nuno, a dark-horse candidate for the No. 5 starter job, throws the first pitch at or about 1:05 p.m. ET.

Girardi ruled out any play for Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano (still recovering from the flu) as well as newcomers Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.

Expect, however, to see plenty of Dean Anna, Zelous Wheeler, Antoan Richardson and a bunch of other players you've never heard of.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesMasahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game on Monday.
Tanaka rules: Girardi denied that the Yankees are doing anything differently in terms of media access on the days Masahiro Tanaka throws, but it is clear there is one set of media rules for Tanaka and another for everyone else.

According to a source, that is not the work of Girardi or Tanaka, who has been followed by media hordes in Japan since he was an 18-year-old high school sensation. The source said that, for some reason, pitching coach Larry Rothschild feels it's necessary to keep the media at bay when Tanaka throws, although the pitcher himself seems unaffected by all the attention, and has been accessible and personable to both the Japanese and English-speaking press.

On Wednesday night, the Yankees beat writers are taking Tanaka to a get-to-know-one-another dinner at a local steakhouse. Word is Rothschild wants us to eat in separate rooms.

More Hiro worship: Here’s what the hitters who faced Tanaka in his simulated game Monday morning had to say about him:

Scott Sizemore: “The guy seems like he’s got electric stuff. His split’s got good action and good tumble to it. He’s not a guy I’d look forward to facing."

Anna: “He throws a lot of pitches with a lot of movement and he’s really deceiving. His delivery is very unique, very good. His splitter is really dirty. His fastball gets on you."

Wheeler: “The splitter was really nasty. Very nasty. If he throws it like today, he's going to be successful."

And a word or two from Cervelli, who caught him: “I think I saw the real stuff today, and it is nasty. If that’s not the real stuff, whoa. He’s got a lot of pitches and he’s able to throw every pitch in every count."

Hiro on Hiro: “Overall, I felt good out there. There were some pitches that I missed the spot, but I feel that overall it was a good session out there today. Some of the off-speed pitches, there were some swing-and-misses, so I did feel good about that.”

Girardi on Hiro: “His command is really good, of all his pitches, not just his fastball. I think he’s adapted to what we’ve asked him to do, and I think he’s kind of embraced it. He seems relaxed. He sits in the clubhouse like everyone else, and sits around and talks to people. I feel like he’s just fit in. It’s like adding any other free agent."

Girardi ticked off six pitches that Tanaka throws -- two- and four-seam fastballs, curve, slider, cutter and splitter -- and one he doesn’t, although he knows how: the changeup.

“I’ve seen him throw it on film, but not here," Girardi said. “That’s up to his discretion and if we feel that he needs it. I’m not so sure that he really needs it.”

Girardi said that, in deference to the once-a-week pitching schedule Tanaka knew in Japan, he might give his new starter an extra day at times this spring to easy him into the American five-man, five-day rotation.

Sori scene: Soriano, who has not been seen in camp since he came down with the flu Thursday, the first day of workouts, came in Monday for a light gym session but no baseball activity. Girardi said Soriano was obviously a few days behind the rest of the squad, and could not say when Soriano might be ready to get into a game.

Rack 'em: Girardi took his team out for its annual bonding experience, which this year was a trip to a local pool hall. The last time he chose the pool hall was 2009, and we all know what happened that season. If history repeats itself and the Yankees go on to win the World Series, Girardi said the pool-hall outing will become a permanent part of spring training.
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