Now the feature presentation: Masahiro Tanaka's splitter

New Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka answers questions from the media at spring training with the help of an interpreter. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

New Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka answers questions from the media at spring training with the help of an interpreter. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

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LAKELAND, Fla. - Mark Teixeira hasn't seen Masahiro Tanaka throw a pitch yet, but he recently got what he thinks is a pretty accurate scouting report.

"I talk to Brian McCann every day," Teixeira said Friday of the catcher, who is a good friend. "The day after [Tanaka's] last bullpen, Mac said, 'He's got great stuff.' "

Teixeira and the rest of the Yankees will get to see Tanaka, signed to a seven-year, $155-million deal during the offseason, in game action for the first time Saturday against the Phillies.

CC Sabathia will start the 1 p.m. game at Steinbrenner Field and will be followed by Hiroki Kuroda and Tanaka.

The 25-year-old righthander has said for the past week that he is ready to test his arsenal against hitters and is equally curious -- "very much," he said -- to see how they respond, especially to his most famous pitch, the splitter.

"I feel that is important, to get some swings and misses on that pitch," Tanaka said through his translator. "Going into tomorrow, I just want to see how the batters react to the pitch.''

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In evaluating Tanaka, Teixeira's focus will be squarely on the batters. "The biggest thing is how hitters swing off him," he said. "You can tell when a hitter's uncomfortable. If they're out there taking uncomfortable swings, then you know he's got really good stuff."

Tanaka's every step, every bullpen session and every live batting-practice session has been extensively chronicled by not only the throng of Japanese media assigned to cover only him but by the American media.

"Hopefully, he keeps his emotions in check a little bit," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's what you worry about, trying to do too much. Players a lot of times want to validate contracts, and I've always said with Japanese-born players, there's a certain amount of pride where they feel like they're pitching for their whole country, and that can be a little much."

Tanaka's splitter has been evaluated by some scouts as "the best in the world," something Girardi said can't be determined from bullpen or live BP sessions.

"I think you have to see how hitters react," Girardi said. "But it has been an out pitch for him and it was really effective in Japan. His slider's also been really effective, but you have to see how hitters, when they start to see it a second and third time, how they react to it. But I have to tell you, I like it, and I saw how hitters reacted over there and it was a really good pitch for him."

Tanaka said he plans to throw everything in his arsenal, which includes sliders, curveballs and two- and four-seam fastballs along with the splitter. What he won't get caught up in, he said, are any final numbers from his day.

"I understand that there's going to be a lot of attention to the results, the numbers with what I do out there," Tanaka said. "But for me, I'm not looking at that at all. I just want to go out there and pitch my style and see how it is on the mound."

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