Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Thursday, March 6, 2014
Masahiro Tanaka impresses Phillies

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In his initial exhibition start for the New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka allowed his first home run of the spring in three innings of one-run, two-hit ball that left the Philadelphia Phillies impressed.

"His split finger is going to be a force to reckon with," Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said.

After a delay of nearly 90 minutes because of downpours and a tornado warning, the 25-year-old Tanaka nearly finished his day unscathed. However, with two outs in the third, Tanaka surrendered a home run to Phillies leadoff man Freddy Galvis on a 3-1 pitch.

Thus far this spring, Tanaka has pitched five innings, giving up one run and four hits. The Phillies were the opponent in both of his appearances.

Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka has pitched five innings this spring, giving up a run and four hits. He hasn't issued a walk.

"I felt I wasn't at the top of my game going on to the mound today," Tanaka said of the start. "But overall including the results and everything I feel I did OK."

Tanaka took care of the Phillies in order in the first inning, working ahead by establishing a 90-plus mph fastball. Of his 11 pitches, eight were strikes. He ended the inning by striking out Chase Utley with his signature splitter in the dirt that the five-time All-Star swung over.

In the second, Tanaka showed the ability to escape trouble. Following a one-out double by Marlon Byrd, he got Domonic Brown to ground out to first and Carlos Ruiz to fly out to right.

"His fastball is explosive," Byrd said. "Balls that are low that look like they are going to stay balls they are strikes."

Tanaka threw 41 pitches, 25 for strikes. Known for his preciseness with seven pitches, he has yet to walk a batter in Florida.

After hitting the home run off Tanaka, Galvis said he only had so much media surround his locker once before when he hit a walk-off.

Tanaka made his debut Saturday against the Phillies in Tampa, Fla., entering in the fifth inning and facing mostly backups. He threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three.

Prior to Thursday's game, Tanaka looked forward to starting so he could face more major leaguers.

"I'll be able to face some of the better, or some of the first-string batters," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'd like to go up there and see how I can pitch against those batters."

Preceding the first pitch Thursday, there was a tornado warning and a downpour that washed out most of the other exhibition games in Florida. The Yankees and Phillies waited out the storm.

In Japan, there are not many rain delays so Tanaka thought it was a good thing that he was able to experience one in spring training because he knows it is something he will need to deal with during the regular season.

The Yankees signed Tanaka in January for seven years and $155 million. They also paid a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka's Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.