TAMPA, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka, for the first time in his Yankees career, has flown mostly under the radar in spring training.
But the righthander, a Yankee since 2014 who has made four Opening Day starts, quietly has impressed club and opposing team evaluators with his stuff in spring training.
And with the seemingly non-stop negative news off the field in the injury department — Gary Sanchez’s back soreness is the most recent example — and questions surrounding the rotation, a lack of drama surrounding Tanaka has been a welcome development.
That continued Sunday in a 1-0 split-squad victory over the Braves at Steinbrenner Field. Tanaka allowed one hit and struck out four in 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings. The Yankees’ other split-squad team tied the Orioles, 5-5, in Sarasota.
“Masa’s been really good all spring,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Again, made some really good pitches with the cutter today to righties. The split I thought was good, command was good. He’s been in a really good place since he’s gotten down here and throwing, and another good one [Sunday].”
Tanaka, who has allowed two runs and three hits and struck out 11 in 8 2⁄3 Grapefruit League innings, has been refining his cutter, a pitch Andy Pettitte helped him with when they spent time together earlier in spring training. He’s been pleased with the results of that pitch and most of his others.
What has he been most happy with? “Just being healthy enough to rack up the innings and number of pitches and also just being able to work on a lot of my pitches,” Tanaka said through his interpreter. “Maybe the cutter, more so than the others, just to see how it plays out in games.”
How much stock does he put into results at this time of year?
“No. None at all,” Tanaka said with a smile.
Still, so far, so good.
Stanton gets going again
Giancarlo Stanton, diagnosed with a Grade 1 right calf strain on Feb. 26, ran at “about 85%” on the treadmill, Boone said, a positive step in his recovery.
“I think that will be the last and final thing, really being able to run full-bore, obviously,” Boone said. “I know his cage work was really good today. I know he feels really good with all of the baseball activity stuff already.”
Stanton, expected to miss at least the first week or two of the regular season, said he has not felt anything in the calf.
“So that’s good,” he said.