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Troubling stat shows Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t fixed problem — May 31, 2015

Troubling stat shows Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t fixed problem

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By Brendan Kuty

OAKLAND, Calif. — When the Yankees acquired starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in the offseason, their goal was to take the righty who allowed the most hits in the National League in 2014 and help him realize his strikeout-artist potential.

The Yankees knew it was going to take a while to transform the 25-year-old. And apparently they’re not too close yet, considering Eovaldi’s back to leading the league in hits allowed.

Though manager Joe Girardi praised Eovaldi for working out of jams and minimizing damage in the Yankees 5-3 win over the A’s at O.co Coliseum Sunday, it was Eovaldi who, once again, put himself in the pickles to begin with.

He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, the second time in three starts he failed to get out of the fifth inning. And Eovaldi might have been out much sooner had rookie left fielder Ramon Flores, playing his first career game, not make a pair of spectacular plays early — one a throw to home, gunning a runner, the other a diving foul-territory catch.

Also, Eovaldi gave up three runs and struck out just three, and the 11 hits he surrendered gave him a season total of 76 — the most in baseball. Last season, he led the NL with 223 hits allowed.

Eovaldi’s strikeout total, by the way? He’s at No. 74 with 42 through 10 starts.

Eovaldi said he was upset with the way he couldn’t finish hitters.

“It’s one of the most frustrating things, I feel like,” Eovaldi said, (to try to) throw the ball down in the dirt, then it’s middle or just up. I just have to do a better job of executing those pitches.

“My fastball felt good, I just wasn’t locating very well. When I was would get ahead of guys, I wasn’t finishing off the batters. A lot of my offspeed pitches were up and middle. They were putting the ball in play and it felt like they were finding every hole.”

Of course, that’s been Eovaldi’s issue since breaking into the league in 2011 with the Dodgers, who sent him to Miami in 2012. The Yankees got Eovaldi, essentially, for utility man Martin Prado.

And it’s what Eovaldi has worked on with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Because no matter how good of a fastball you throw — and Eovaldi’s averages about 95 mph, among the fastest in the game among starters — major-league hitters can handle it if they know it’s coming.

Girardi acknowledged things haven’t come easy at all for Eovaldi this season, but added that he believes he’s on the right track.

“As I’ve said all along, we really like this kid and he’s a work in progress,” the manager said. “But we believe he’s making steps in the right direction and sometimes you’re going to have nights like this.”

Opportunity for Ramon Flores (as long Girardi actually plays him) — May 30, 2015

Opportunity for Ramon Flores (as long Girardi actually plays him)

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees' Ramon Flores, right, fist-bumps manager Joe Girardi after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
New York Yankees’ Ramon Flores, right, fist-bumps manager Joe Girardi after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

On March 24, Ramon Flores hit a walk-off home run to win a spring training game. This is what Joe Girardi had to say about it:

“He’s a guy that’s definitely on our radar. If something was to happen to one of our outfielders, I think he’d be a pretty strong candidate.”

Well, Flores was still a candidate yesterday, and he’ll be a big leaguer tonight. He was hitting .294/.389/.425 in Triple-A, the Yankees needed a new outfielder, and Flores got the call. Now we’ll find out whether he can go from being on the radar to being in the lineup.

Flores is replacing Slade Heathcott on the roster. Will he replace him as a lineup regular?

“It will be kind of like what I did with Slade,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how the kid does. It could be a platoon situation. There’s a lot of different things we could do. We’ll see how the kid does.”

We’ve seen that good young hitters don’t always thrive when they don’t get much playing time. A part-time role isn’t for everyone, and even veteran hitters often find it difficult to be productive without regular at-bats. Right now, the lowest OPS on the Yankees’ roster doesn’t belong to Didi Gregorius or Stephen Drew.

By a large margin, it’s Jose Pirela who’s hitting just .200/.200/.233 for a team-worst.433 OPS. Based on his Triple-A numbers last season, Pirela should be an obvious possibility to offensively upgrade in the middle of the infield, but in his limited big league opportunity this season, he hasn’t forced Girardi’s hand.

“We’ve talked about it, and he seemed to struggle too,” Girardi said. “We’ve talked about it. … It’s difficult when you’re a young player and you’re used to playing every day, to make that adjustment. It’s hard.”

John Ryan Murphy has also not hit much this season (.222/.286/.361), and the only Yankees with a lower OPS than Garrett Jones are the light-hitting middle infielders. Is that a sign of a weak bench, or simply a bench that hasn’t done much because it hasn’t had many opportunities?

Now, into that mix comes Flores, a 23-year-old who could slide right into Heathcott’s platoon situation with a legitimate chance to sink or swim. If this were a month ago, Chris Young would probably get something close to everyday playing time in center field, but Young’s been pretty bad lately, and he’s been especially bad against right-handed pitchers. Jones could play some left field, but his defense is spotty at best, and he hasn’t hit much.

Platoon playing time for Flores make sense, and it’s the only way to find out if he can truly help this lineup get something going at the bottom of the order.

How the Yanks rotation is starting to ruin their bullpen —

How the Yanks rotation is starting to ruin their bullpen

By Kevin Kernan

New York Yankees' Chris Capuano adjusts his cap in the third inning of a baseball game against the against the Oakland Athletics Friday, May 29, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
New York Yankees’ Chris Capuano adjusts his cap in the third inning of a baseball game against the against the Oakland Athletics Friday, May 29, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Chris Capuano is exasperated while allowing four runs in the third inning on Friday night.

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Yankees can’t continue like this, even if it is the Four-A AL East.

They are on the road to ruin if they don’t clean up their starting pitching. The starters are taxing the brilliant back end of a bullpen and are continuously putting the team in a hole.

Friday night, it was Chris Capuano on the mound and a quick 4-0 deficit against the Athletics. The Yankees went on to lose, 6-2 at O.co Coliseum.

Chase Headley made a costly error in the four-run third, but the Oakland hitters produced solid exit velocity all night.

Yankees starters are 18-19 this season. The 25-24 Yankees are the only team in the majors that has a winning record with a rotation that has a losing record.

Manager Joe Girardi knows the starting pitching must improve dramatically.

“We had a tough road trip, came home, lost the first three at home and then we beat Kansas City three days in a row and we pitched well,’’ Girardi said.

“These two games, CC (Sabathia) had a lead and wasn’t able to hold it and then we give them an extra out tonight which leads to a big inning for them. Our division right now is up for grabs and we need to take advantage of that.’’

Yes, they do. Oakland starter Sonny Gray was magnificent Friday night as he pitched eight innings to up his record to 6-2 with a 1.82 ERA.

Someone other than Michael Pineda has to step up on the mound for the Yankees. The Yankees starting rotation ranks 20th in the majors with a 4.29 ERA and is tied with the Twins for 28th in opponents’ batting average at .275.

Only the Rockies are worse, but at least they have the excuse of pitching at Coors Field where the baseball flies.

Yankees starters are averaging 5²/₃ innings per start, taxing a bullpen that has two terrific closers in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, a luxury that, among other MLB teams, only the Cardinals and Royals possess.

Betances has appeared in 23 games, posting a 4-0 record with a 0.00 ERA, while Miller has pitched in 21 games, with 14 saves and an 0.84 ERA.

Too many appearances and that advantage will disappear or there will be more nights like Thursday, when Girardi stayed away from his best relievers in a 5-4 loss to give them a much-needed rest and others did not respond.

The Mets have the best starting pitching in New York. They have won that war.

The Yankees are trying to hold on with the hope that their $155 million ace, Masahiro Tanaka, can find a way to overcome his arm issues when he returns to the rotation Wednesday in Seattle.

The right-hander will try to succeed with what one scout told me is “Tanaka Lite’’ stuff.

The Yankees have time to fix their problems. They sit atop the AL East, where no other team is .500.

If young starter Luis Severino continues to impress, now that he has been promoted to Triple-A, he could be a huge help.

Maybe general manager Brian Cashman can find a decent starter on the trade front. But if things don’t improve, sooner or later, the poor starting pitching will catch up to the Yankees.

The Yankees have lost 11 of their past 12 at the O(No).co Coliseum.

The only win over the past 12 games here was a 7-0 victory last season. The winner was David Phelps, who is now with the Marlins.

Capuano, who dropped to 0-3, posts a 6.39 ERA. Nathan Eovaldi is sitting at 4.27. Sabathia is 5.67. Adam Warren has offered hope at 3.91 and Pineda is at 3.36.

Tanaka returns, bringing a 3.22 ERA with him.

The Yankees are trying to squeeze every last ounce of success out of Tanaka to bolster this troubled rotation.

As for his own expectations, Tanaka offered through a translator: “I don’t have much expectations. I just want to go out there and pitch the best that I can so I can give the team a chance to win the game.”

For a Yankees starting pitcher, that would be a nice changeup.

Yankees’ bullpen becoming an issue this season — May 29, 2015

Yankees’ bullpen becoming an issue this season

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees relief pitcher David Carpenter walks to the dugout after pitching during a spring training baseball exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Monday, March 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
New York Yankees relief pitcher David Carpenter walks to the dugout after pitching during a spring training baseball exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Monday, March 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Early in the season, when the Yankees were on a roll and gaining steam, their bullpen was yet again an obvious strength. It had been overhauled in the offseason, but it had depth and power. Andrew Miller had moved into the ninth inning, Dellin Betances had gotten past those early struggles, and even a guy like Esmil Rogers — who’d struggled in the past — had found a real groove as a potent long man.

Now we’re almost two months into the season, and the bullpen seems to be only two-to-three arms deep. Miller and Betances are a potent one-two punch at the end, and Justin Wilson has been good against lefties, but the rest of the pen is a combination of inexperienced rookies and underperforming veterans.

That much was on display last night when the top three guys were unavailable, and David Carpenter let a winable game slip away.

Brian McCann, Justin Wilson, Joe Girardi“Right now, trying to find the silver lining in all of this has been tough,” Carpenter said.

After pitching well as a setup man in Atlanta the past two years, Carpenter’s strikeouts are down and his walks are up. He’s also allowed three home runs, two away from matching his career-high for a season. Last night he gave up a groundball single that loaded the bases, then he walked in a run, then he allowed a sacrifice fly. He has a 1.44 WHIP.

Rogers hasn’t been any better. His good month of April faded into a bad month of May. The other two middle-inning arms are Chasen Shreve and Jacob Lindgren, a pair of rookie left-handers who haven’t really carved out roles. Lindgren’s pitched only once. Shreve has been mostly a mopup and long man.

“Shreve’s done a pretty good job,” Joe Girardi said. “Esmil is kind of a long guy. Lindgren’s young and you kind of want to bring him along slow, in a sense. Sometimes you’re forced into action. It was good to get him in the other day, but to have a really successful bullpen, you need everyone to contribute.”

The Yankees have built strong bullpens in recent years, and the risk of replacing Dave Robertson with Miller has largely paid off this season. It’s those middle relievers that have been tough to figure out. Eventually, Lindgren might develop into a force, but he’s new at this level.

Really, it’s Carpenter that’s been the most surprising. He’s been a dependable late-inning guy in the past, but he never really carved out a role early this season, and he’s done nothing to suggest he can handle key innings lately. He seemed to be a key part of the Yankees plan — kind of this year’s Shawn Kelley — but he just hasn’t pitched well.

“Just trying to get out there and get used to your surroundings,” Carpenter said. “It’s a new team, a new way of being used. Other than that, it’s just trying to go out and execute. That’s been part of the problem. I haven’t exactly been executing.”

The Yankees need that to change, or they need to find someone else who can do the job. Chris Martin is about to begin a rehab assignment. Branden Pinder has pitched well in limited opportunities. Guys like Nick Rumbelow, Diego Moreno and Danny Burawa are waiting in Triple-A.

“Guys have got to get it done,” Girardi said. “That’s what we’re asking them to do.”

Yankees reportedly move top prospect Luis Severino closer to majors — May 28, 2015

Yankees reportedly move top prospect Luis Severino closer to majors

severino

By Brendan Kuty

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Yankees‘ top pitching prospect has reportedly moved a step away from the majors.

Righty Luis Severino has been promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, according to Baseball America’s Josh Norris.

Neither minor league team, nor the Yankees, had immediately released information confirming the move.

Severino was 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA in eight starts at Double-A. In his last start, Severino struck out a career-high nine hitters over five innings while allowing two runs, two walks and three hits.

He missed a little bit of time this season due to aminor injury on one of the fingers on his throwing hand.

Severino, 21, impressed Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild during his first major-league spring training this year.

“He challenges people,” the manager said in early March. “He’s not overwhelmed by the situation. I know he walked a guy today, but he kept throwing strike after strike, and put a tough at-bat on him.

“I really liked his approach. I mean, obviously you can see the stuff is there. It’s easy to get excited about that. But the approach is really good too.”

The Yankees haven’t been afraid to reward young pitchers so far this season. Promising lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren, the team’s top overall pick in 2014, was called up last week.

How to fix MLB’s ‘foreign substance’ violations? The Yankees have some thoughts — May 27, 2015

How to fix MLB’s ‘foreign substance’ violations? The Yankees have some thoughts

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New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) smacks a 1st inning 2 run homer as the New York Yankees host the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY 5/26/15

By Ryan  Hatch

NEW YORK — Within the last week, two major league pitchers were suspended because of “foreign substances” on their arms, seemingly as a way to better grip the baseball and control their pitches.

Baltimore Orioles’ lefty Brian Matusz was suspended eight games on Monday for being caught with something rubbed on his right forearm in a game last Saturday at Miami. The day before, Milwaukee Brewers’ reliever Will Smith was also suspended eight games for the same violation when the Atlanta Braves noticed something on his right arm.

Both players are appealing the suspensions, but Major League Baseball has a bit of a problem on its hands, one the Yankees are all too familiar with as last season right-hander Michael Pineda was caught using pine tar — twice! — on the mound, one of the times with a big gob of it on his neck during a start in Boston on national television.

So, what to do? Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi said he had an idea.

“I really believe there should be a substance behind the mound that every pitcher’s allowed to use,” Girardi said.

So, place a one-size-fits-all, universal bucket of…something, behind the mound, for pitchers to dip their hands into?

Catcher Brian McCann did not seem to think that would much work.

“If somebody likes sunscreen or rosin, you can’t see it,” McCann told NJ Advance Media. “They’re going to use what they want to use.”

In other words: players are going to try to gain an edge one way or another. If there is a bucket of Banana Boat 50 SPF for all the pitchers to use, that is all well and good, but pitchers will bring whatever it is they personally prefer to the mound.

Perhaps Girardi’s second thought makes more sense:

“You want to check the pitchers before they go out to make sure there’s nothing else on them? Go ahead,” he said. “We don’t want to get in a situation where you’re having pitchers suspended for eight games.”

That, actually, does not seem like it would cause much of an issue. It would be a minor inconvenience for everyone involved, and it would take just a few seconds for the umpire to check pitchers out.

It seems a bit ridiculous for umpires to be checking players 10 times a game to make sure they are not cheating, but until it stops, is there an alternative?

McCann said he didn’t really care much that pitchers use stuff to grip the ball better, more just the brazenness of doing so. He said what Matusz and Smith were using may have been a mix of pine tar and rosin. (The substances appeared shiny.)

“I’d care if I saw a blob on the arm, but other than that…putting it on your skin, you can’t do that,” he said.

Girardi agreed, sort of. He said hitters would not rebel to the idea of all pitchers being allowed to use something.

“No, because hitters know pitchers are all using something. We know that. Come on,” he said. “There’s a lot of pitchers that do. And I think [hitters] probably prefer if there’s one substance to help with the tackiness of balls, and that’s it.”

Yankees’ left-hander Chris Capuano uses sunscreen on his arms and neck, rubbing it in before his starts. He said, though, that it often wears out by the third or fourth inning, gone from sweat especially now that the weather is warmer.

His preference is sunscreen, rosin, and sweat. That, he said, usually gives him a solid grip without needing anything else.

What Capuano said was that the balls should be more consistent from stadium to stadium. Both he and Girardi remarked on how they treat the balls in Japan, where balls come with the same tack on them, and it is said that balls are nearly identical to the touch. It is widely accepted that baseballs in Japan are simply easier to grip because of the tackiness.

Balls in MLB, Capuano said, can vary widely and the different climates do not help.

“Sometimes I’ll get a ball and don’t have to touch it,” Capuano said. “Other times I have to totally mess with it to get it right.”

He had several used balls in his locker that he let a reporter handle. While all balls have the same amount of double-stitches (108), they are raised at different levels that can create issues.

Speaking generally though, Capuano said he did not think most pitchers were going out to the mound with “foreign substances” on their arms such as pine tar, but that 85-90 percent of pitchers use some mix of sunscreen and rosin.

MLB recently revamped its ball security system, which is a good step, but the problem seems to start earlier than when they arrive at the ballpark.

If the balls aren’t fixed, maybe by next year umpires will have a special blue-light wand to wave over pitchers arms when come into the game to detect any sort of foreign substance.

Lightsaber-wielding umpires, if you will.

All kidding aside, MLB should probably find a fix to their ball issue. Otherwise they risk becoming the NFL.

Jacob Lindgren’s Yankees debut matches a feat accomplished by … Deion Sanders? — May 26, 2015

Jacob Lindgren’s Yankees debut matches a feat accomplished by … Deion Sanders?

By Ryan Hatch

NEW YORK — Yankees‘ left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren, pitching this time last year for Mississippi State in the NCAA regionals, made his major league debutMonday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, pitching a near-flawless eighth and ninth inning.

And his appearance made history.

Drafted only last June, Lindgren matched former football and baseball star Deion Sanders as the first Yankee to make his big league debut within a year of being drafted.

“I didn’t know that,” Lindgren said after the game. “Maybe I should play football.”

Sanders was drafted out of Florida State in the 30th round in 1988 and debuted for the Yankees almost 27 years ago to the day, playing in a game on May 31, 1989. Lindgren was taken in 2014, selected in the second round and given a $1.1 million signing bonus.

(Sanders played nine years in the big leagues, stealing 186 bases and hitting .263. He’s in the National Football League Hall of Fame. Across 14 seasons he finished with 53 interceptions and won two Super Bowls.)

Lindgren entered in the eighth inning on Monday to reliever starter Nathan Eovaldi with the Yankees holding a 14-1 lead (the eventual final score), and he struck out two of the seven batters he faced.

The 22-year-old inherited a runner on first base, but on his second pitch he was able to get Royals’ first baseman Erick Hosmer to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.

“It was good, cleared the bases,” he said. “Let me focus on the hitter.”

Lindgren is the youngest Yankees pitcher to appear in a game since Phil Hughes pitched in 2008.

Manager Joe Girardi said he noticed in the eighth inning when Lindgren entered the game that the rest of the bullpen members showed their support for the youngster.

“When Lindy came in, all the bullpen guys were sitting on the outside bench, watching and pulling for him,” Girardi said. “That’s what you want from your players.”

Lindgren said nerves had the best of him when he entered the game. Family members, including his grandfather, aunts and uncles were at the game. He said the past year has been a bit surreal.

“Yeah, it’s crazy to think about,” he said. “Some of my buddies were texting me. … It’s crazy to think I’m in Yankee Stadium.”

Lindgren shot up through the minor leagues this season, pitching lights out at Triple-A: He had a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders before being called up Saturday.

Another Didi Gregorius mistake costs Yankees — May 23, 2015

Another Didi Gregorius mistake costs Yankees

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By Ryan Hatch

NEW YORK — Yankees‘ shortstop Didi Gregorius crushed his first home run of the season Friday night, a three-run blast in the fourth inning to right-center that cut the Rangers’ lead to 7-4.

But no glory was to be had, as just an inning before Gregorious let a ground ball scoot under his glove the he was trying to back-hand, allowing two runs to score. It was the difference in the game as the Yankees lost 10-9. (The Rangers had the bases loaded with no outs when it happened.)

“I look at that as probably trying to do too much,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Just get the one out. I think that is the important thing. I don’t think you have any chance at turning two.”

The “doing too much” excuse sounds familiar. After Didi Gregorius made a base running error the first week of the season, Girardi said the same thing.

Indeed: 42 games into the season, and Gregorius seems to be repeating the same mistakes that are costing the team runs and games.

“I was trying to go to the plate and save the run but it cost more,” Gregorius said. “That was a bad mistake.”

Gregorius finished the game with those three runs driven in and no, the Yankees wouldn’t have been close to winning without his homer, but the disastrous third inning (seven runs allowed in total) may not have happened without his fifth error of the year.

“It wasn’t a good feeling for me or for our team,” he said.

Gregorious said his first home run as a Yankee wasn’t one to celebrate because of the way the game ended up. In general, Gregorious isn’t hitting well enough to mask his blunders in the field and on the bases. Through Friday, he’s hitting just .217 with 10 RBI, three of which came on that swing.

“I feel comfortable,” he said. “As a player, you always want to play hard. So I think sometimes maybe I play too hard or overdo some things.”

It is becoming a theme for the Yankees shortstop this season.

Hal indicates Yankees will lean towards rentals at trade deadline — May 22, 2015

Hal indicates Yankees will lean towards rentals at trade deadline

By Mike Axisa

Hal-Steinbrenner

This isn’t particularly surprising: Hal Steinbrenner indicated the Yankees will lean towards acquiring rental players at the trade deadline this year while talking to Ken Davidoff earlier this week.“I’m not afraid to spend money. I never am. You know that. So when July rolls around, the trade deadline rolls around, we’re going to see where we’re really deficient and we’ll do what we can,” added Hal.

Over the last few years the Yankees have looked for long-term solutions in the offseason and band-aids at midseason. The most notable exceptions are Martin Prado and Alfonso Soriano — Prado had two years left on his contract at the time of the trade last year and Soriano had one year left when he was acquired in 2013, though the Cubs ate a ton of money to facilitate the trade. Brandon McCarthy,Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, Ichiro Suzuki, Lance Berkman, Jerry Hairston Jr. … all rentals.

There’s an obsession with team control years nowadays — “oh wow, that hard-throwing reliever is under team control through 2018? great trade!” (what are the odds that guy is even MLB caliber in 2018?) — and I think rentals have gotten undervalued in a sense. They typically don’t cost as much to acquire, there’s no long-term risk, and the player has every reason to be at his best given his impending free agency. Rentals are often good bargains.

The Yankees have clear needs on the middle infield — second base moreso than shortstop, they aren’t giving up on Didi Gregorius yet — and every team could use pitching, so I expect those to be the areas of focus. Here’s the list of upcoming free agents. Potential trade targets — guys who have a realistic chance to become available — include Ben Zobrist, Mike Aviles, Daniel Murphy, Bartolo Colon, Johnny Cueto, Doug Fister, Dan Haren, and Scott Kazmir, among others.

I don’t think the Yankees would steer clear of non-rental players this summer if the opportunity to acquire a longer term solution presents itself. The Prado trade showed that last year. Cole Hamels is obviously going to be available, and I think the Padres would give Jedd Gyorko away at this point (78 OPS+ since signing his six-year extension!), but otherwise I’m not sure who else would be a fit. Give it a few weeks and the market will develop.

Tanaka looks good, feels good in first rehab start —

Tanaka looks good, feels good in first rehab start

by Chad Jennings

tanaka scranton    1

Best I could tell from watching on television, Masahiro Tanaka looked every bit like a big league starter facing a minor league lineup tonight.

Making his first rehab start since going on the disabled list late last month, Tanaka cruised through three scoreless innings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He struck out two, walked none and showed no signs to trouble in either his forearm or his elbow.

The Yankees have not said what’s next for their injured ace, but he will presumably make at least one or two more minor league starts before rejoining the big league rotation.

Yankees Tanaka Baseball“I can’t really say right now,” Tanaka told reporters,including Donnie Collins, who passed along a few quotes. “I’ll have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow. Obviously, we get to see our trainer in New York, our manager, coaches and discuss to see what the next step will be.”

All signs were positive through the first step.

Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, Tanaka needed 41 pitches to get through three scoreless. He allowed one double and one single but otherwise worked quickly and easily, mixing all of his pitches with a fastball sitting at 91 mph and topping out at 92 on the stadium radar gun.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Tanaka said. “I was able to use all my pitches. I felt pretty good. … Not necessarily different than how I usually go into a game. I was looking to obviously pitch all my pitches with force, and I was able to do that tonight.”

Tanaka’s first pitch came in at 91 mph, and it was lifted for a routine out to center field. His entire outing wouldn’t be quite that easy, but it didn’t get much harder. After the second batter of the game doubled, Tanaka retired the next seven in a row. The first inning took him just 12 pitches, and the second inning required only 10.

It seemed Tanaka would fall far short of 45 pitches at the end of three innings, but after a two-out single in the third, he fell behind 3-0 against former big leaguer Jake Elmore, who had doubled earlier in the game. Tanaka worked to even the count before getting Elmore to fly out to end the inning and end his outing.

Did he feel any pain?

“No,” Tanaka said. “Not at all.”

Check Donnie’s blog postgame for more from the RailRiders clubhouse, including — assuming he talks to reporters, which I’m sure he will — comments from Austin Romine, who was behind the plate for Tanaka.