Masahiro Tanaka to pitch simulated game instead of facing Nationals
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It has been a spring training camp of adjustments for Masahiro Tanaka, and Tuesday again will bring something new.
Rather than have Tanaka make the 2 1/2-hour trip to Viera to face the Nationals, which would be the righthander's fifth day, he will stay in Tampa and throw a simulated game.
CC Sabathia, who threw a simulated game Thursday when Tanaka started in Clearwater against the Phillies, will start against the Nationals.
"It's actually a little different," Tanaka said Saturday morning before many of his teammates loaded the bus to Osceola County Stadium to face the Astros, who lost to the Yankees, 9-6. "I've done something similar, but it's the first time doing this."
Simulated games are exactly what they sound like. Game conditions are simulated, with a catcher, batters and a coach calling balls and strikes. Between "innings," the pitcher sits in the dugout, rests and typically will chat with the catcher.
Early in spring training, they typically last two or three innings; later on, they can be as long as seven frames. Tanaka threw three innings Thursday against the Phillies, so he's likely to pitch four or five innings, depending on his pitch count, in Tuesday's simulated game.
Tanaka said that in Japan -- the only place he pitched before signing a seven-year, $155-million contract with the Yankees in January -- intrasquad games, not simulated games, are the method of choice for pitchers to get their work in.
"I need to get myself to try and get something out of it. This is something new to me," Tanaka said through his translator. "It's part of the adjustment I need to make."
From just about all accounts -- inside the organization and outside -- Tanaka's adjustment to the majors has gone about as well as could be expected.
After a series of bullpen sessions and live batting practice sessions, the Yankees were impressed, and on Thursday, it was the Phillies' turn to be impressed.
"He's really good," said leadoff man Freddy Galvis, who homered off Tanaka on a 3-and-1 pitch. "I think he's got a shot to be really good here."
First baseman Ryan Howard said: "I was talking to the other guys. He's got really good control of every pitch. It looks like he puts it where he wants to. His split-finger is going to be the force to be reckoned with. Guys are going to have to make adjustments for it."
There's that word again: adjustments.
Tanaka has his share to make -- including the bigger baseball and a different mound in the major leagues, plus getting on an every-fifth-day routine compared with pitching every sixth or seventh day in Japan -- and Tuesday presents one more.
Would he rather pitch in a regular game?
"I don't look at it like that," said Tanaka, lined up after the simulated game to start next Sunday against the Braves at Steinbrenner Field. "Players, we do what the manager tells us to do, so I'm OK with it."