Yankees get first live look at Tanaka
New Bombers righty impresses in bullpen session, despite taking it slow
TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka's busy first week in the big leagues continued on Thursday morning, as the right-hander scaled a mound and threw a bullpen session of about 25 pitches at the Yankees' Minor League complex.
Teamed with catcher Francisco Cervelli, Tanaka's repertoire consisted of mostly four-seam fastballs and two-seam fastballs, with a few splitters and sliders sprinkled in. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was on hand to track the session.
"It was good," Rothschild said. "He's still trying to catch up, I think, with the time change and everything. We're just trying to ease him into things right now, but everything is good. You can see the arm strength and everything else, but we're going to go slow with him."
Tanaka, 25, hasn't had much time to rest. He chartered a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 to fly into New York for his introductory news conference on Tuesday, where more than 200 media members gathered to hear Tanaka discuss his seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees.
After briefly dabbling with apartment shopping in New York, Tanaka arrived in Tampa on Wednesday, two days ahead of the official report date for Yankees pitchers and catchers. He arrived at the complex on Thursday carrying a team-issued duffel bag and wearing a gray Yanks T-shirt and blue shorts.
Tanaka prepared for his arrival by throwing several side sessions in Japan, according to Rothschild, and Cervelli estimated that Tanaka was throwing at about 60 percent effort. Even so, the catcher's first impressions of Tanaka were positive.
"The way the ball travels, it's so easy," Cervelli said. "I'm so excited just to have Tanaka here, and I think it's going to be great. But he only threw 25 pitches, so we'll have to see the whole Spring Training."
Rothschild said that Tanaka "looks like he's in good shape and ready to do whatever." Even so, Rothschild did not push Tanaka to show off his splitter -- rated by many as world-class -- on what was a chilly and windy morning by Florida standards.
"He only threw a couple," Rothschild said. "I didn't want him to throw a lot today, because it was a little bit cold out. I saw it on tape. It's just hard to decipher from the tape actually how good it is; I know it's good, but we'll see in the next few weeks. We've got plenty of time for that."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter said that he briefly spoke with Tanaka in the clubhouse, joking that he has been "picking up my Japanese." Cervelli said that he and Tanaka talked briefly through an interpreter; mostly, they discussed Florida living situations.
"Where I stay, where's my house -- that's what he asked," Cervelli said. "That's it. I don't have too much time to talk. I just asked what he throws, what he likes. Today was, 'Just let the arm go.'"
Rothschild said that Tanaka's next bullpen session is scheduled for Saturday, which should be a highlight attraction when the Yanks hold their first workout for pitchers and catchers at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"He seems to have a nature where he's able to adjust to things and doesn't get overly excited," Rothschild said. "When you see what he's been through the last week and how he's handled it, he just goes along and does it the same. That tells you something about him."