Tanaka has arrived in the Bronx
Pitching Phenom Lives Up to the Hype
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, APRIL 10- The slider, fastball, and change up came as advertised from Masahiro Tanaka and were on display for the first time in the Bronx Wednesday night. And for almost seven innings, Tanaka had the Baltimore Orioles knowing that the New York Yankees right-hander from Japan had arrived.
Nelson Cruz also knows that well, two of the 10-strikeout victims, courtesy of a nasty slider Tanaka throws that hit the dirt. The fastball also contributed to the swings, and looks at the plate that Cruz and the Orioles will see again.
It was Tanaka as advertised, and there will be more to come. The Yankees early season bullpen issues are more of an issue for manager Joe Girardi.
Tanaka was asked about his first two starts and the early runs. He gave up a first inning home run in his first start, to Melky Cabrera up in Toronto. Wednesday night, the Orioles scored three runs in the second inning.
“Obviously that is something I need to adjust,” he said through his interpreter. “It’s really hard to make an assessment after two games.” And one veteran scout sitting up in the Yankee Stadium area press box said, “He will adjust. Wish we had him.”
A first inning fastball hit by Delmon Young, a double to the wall in left was the beginning of what will be an adjustment. It was clocked at 90, advertised as it came. But Young got a hold of it and Tanaka, will eventually adjust and learn how to get three easy outs in a Major League Baseball game first inning.
Adam Jones got caught swinging at a third strike, a 14-pitch first inning. Nelson Cruz got fooled and struck out in the second on a Tanaka fastball. Steve Lombordozzi followed with the second hit of the inning, lining a ball that got over the head of Yangervis Solarte at third.
But, Tanaka looked good against Cruz, one of the premiere hitters in baseball, with or without a steroid suspension on his resume. He got Cruz to strike out in the third inning on a slider that was in the dirt, but in that second inning, he continued to get a lesson.
Jonathan Schoop, on a 1-0 pitch, got hold of a slider that landed deep in the second deck out in left for an Orioles 3-0 lead. He would settle down, very identical to that first start up in Toronto. There were 58 pitches, 40 for strikes after three innings. He definitely can dominate, and on four days rest, another adjustment that he says will not be an issue.
“He made a mistake and kept a slider up,” commented Schoop. “I tried to make adjustments as he tried to elevate me, and then he made a mistake.”
However, Tanaka, as everyone knows will not make many mistakes. This is still a learning process of adjusting and learning the hitters here, even in his new home run yard known as Yankee Stadium. He allowed three earned runs and a walk.
“He battled out of tough jams, made pitches when he had to and got better as the night went along,” said Girardi, who added, Tanaka threw the ball okay. In the fifth inning with two on base and with two out, the score knotted at 3-3, on a 2-2 pitch he got Matt Wieters to go after a changeup in the dirt and get out of the inning, his eighth strikeout.
“He is as good as advertised,” claimed Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “
On his 101st pitch, Tanaka got Young swinging on another slider for his 10th strikeout and second of the sixth inning. He could have gone longer, but this is a process, now adjusting to the four day rest routine. In other words this is not the accustomed process of taking the mound every fifth day.
He said, “I understand four days. Also it’s a long season and will go along with it.”
The Orioles’ Adam Jones said, Tanaka is not facing the same hitters that were in Japan. “We groove, we hack.”
Jones struck out twice and singled in three at bats off Tanaka. He became the second Yankee pitcher to strike out at least eight batters in each of his first two Major League starts. The 10 strikeouts were the most by a Yankees rookie since Ivan Nova on August 4, of 2011 against the White Sox, and most for a rookie at home since 1998 in a game against Texas.
Yes, Tanaka has arrived. The Yankees may have their bullpen issues but a sensation from Japan will eventually go deeper into games. It is part of the adjustment and he comes as advertised.