CLEARWATER, Fla. — The day after Joe Girardi said he needed Masahiro Tanaka to “dial it up” in his final outing of spring training, the righthander responded Tuesday, holding the Phillies to one run in four rain-soaked innings.
The game was rained out with the Yankees leading 7-1 after four, but Tanaka accomplished what he wanted, improving after a nine-hit, seven-run dud against the Nationals last week.
Tanaka, who entered with a 7.36 ERA, gave up seven hits. A double, walk and single in the first produced Philadelphia’s run. He struck out five, including Ryan Howard twice. But he did get help from his defense. A runner was caught stealing, and rightfielder Cesar Puello’s strong throw home got the final out of the third after a single with two on.
“I think I was much better than the other outings,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Although I did give up a couple of hits, I think the balls were coming out of my hand really good. I was able to control the ball very well. My breaking ball had some good spin on it.”
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was pleased with Tanaka. “As the game went, he got sharper,” he said, noting he pitched two simulated innings after the game was stopped so he could get to his scheduled limit of 90 pitches. “I thought overall it was pretty good, and the circumstances weren’t the easiest.”
The game was played in steady rain, and Rothschild said his only concern was making sure the mound was safe.
“I think he’s right on the cusp of getting back to where you’d expect him to be,” Rothschild said. “[He and Girardi] will sit down and talk about it. He’s definitely a viable option [for Opening Day]. We’ll see where we are.”
Girardi talked to bench coach Rob Thomson about Tanaka, but said he wanted to talk more with Rothschild before making any decision about Monday’s Opening Day.
“I really want to hear from Larry,” Girardi said in Tampa after his split-squad game also was cut short by rain. “His start against Washington, his stuff was not where we needed it to be, so I want to see if Larry thought his stuff was where we think it should be.”
Tanaka said he has no expectations about whether he’ll start Opening Day, but that he will pitch with confidence whenever the Yankees give him the call. “I don’t know exactly where I’ll be throwing at,’’ he said, “but I’m ready to go into the season.”
With Erik Boland