New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, of Japan, prepares to throw in the bullpen during a spring training baseball workout, Tuesday, March 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla
By Brendan Kuty
TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will make his first appearance of spring training against the Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field Thursday night.
Tanaka has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury caused him to miss more than two months last year after signing a seven-year, $155-million deal with the Yankees in the prior offseason.
Tanaka made two starts at the end of September, and the Yankees declared him a healthy pitcher. That was before he threw a bunch of bullpen sessions and live batting practice in spring training.
A few things to keep in mind about Tanaka Thursday:
1. It’s not about results: That’s at least according to general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. Neither, they have said, is interested in whether Tanaka throws a perfect two innings, though it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t mind.
2. Movement: Is Tanaka’s vaunted splitter — widely considered the game’s best — actually splitting? Cashman has said whether Tanaka’s filthy stuff is actually filthy will be big for him to watch. “Less on the results as much as, how’s the action on his pitches?” Cashman said Wednesday.
3. Hesitancy: What if the catcher calls for a certain pitch and Tanaka shakes it off. And what if the backstop calls for it again, and the 26-year-old ace shakes it off again? That might be a time for Cashman to panic.
4. Fight: Tanaka is among the most reserved Yankees, except for when he’s on the mound. That’s when the righty gets demonstrative, screaming sometimes after strikeouts. Cashman said it’s important that Tanaka has “got a smile on his face,” and looks like he’s enjoying being out there.