Masahiro Tanaka finally made his big league debut for the Yankees Saturday in Tampa, striking out three Philadelphia Phillies in two innings of work, giving up two hits without a single walk.
He walked out to the mound after the 4th inning, receiving a big ovation from the Yankees crowd that has been waiting for, seemingly, a long time to see him pitch. He started his first inning by getting ahead of Darin Ruf 0-2, but surrendered a single to him.
He was able to finish off the 17-pitch 5th inning by setting down the next three hitters on tow flyouts and a full-count strikeout of Cesar Hernandez on a high fastball.
Tanaka started the 6th inning by striking out Phillies outfielder Ben Revere on a nasty splitter that just fell off of the table. His splitter is one of the things that we have heard a lot about over the past few months, and to see it in action for the first time, it was as good as advertised, just as Brian McCann said the other day.
Tanaka’s pitch-limit was 35, and he threw 31 in two innings, just four under the limit that has been set for all Yankees starter this earlier in the spring.
Tanaka said after the game that he threw all seven of his pitches, including two fastballs. He was topping out at 94 mph.
The Yankees paid a lot of money for this kid — $175 million to be exact — and they certainly expect a lot from him, even if they don’t come out and say it. Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio a couple weeks ago that he sees Tanaka a a solid No. 3 starter in the Yankees’ rotation, but that was obviously just a ploy to downplay expectations.
Tanaka has been drawing a lot of praise so far this spring with the way he’s been throwing in his bullpens, side sessions and live batting practice sessions. Teammates, coaches and catchers that have caught him all seem to agree that this 25-year-old right hander from Japan is going to be the real deal.
For the time being, we don’t know when Tanaka’s next spring start is going to take place, but you can bet that it’ll gather just as much attention at it did today.