Masahiro Tanaka threw 25 pitches in front of a New York Yankee contingent including, manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman on Friday. "I was pleased with what we saw, his stuff looked crisp" manager Joe Girardi said. He was caught by a few Yankee catchers including Austin Romine and Brian McCann. Romine told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, "I had to turn around and ask what the pitch was. I've have never seen a ball move like that before, it's special." The pitch that impressed Romine and the entire Yankee staff on Friday was Tanaka's famed split-fingered fastball.
New Yankee backstop Brian McCann also caught Tanaka for the first time on Friday.
"I thought he was great. He worked all his pitches in there. His fastball command was there. His off-speed I thought was great. His split has some great action on it. His cutter, his slide; he was sharp. As good as advertised", He told Mark Feinsand.
Both McCann and Romine were very impressed with Tanaka's split finger. McCann added, "He's got a great split. It really falls off the table. His motion is completly the same as his fastball and that's the key to getting swings and misses." Both Yankee catchers felt that Tanaka has a great arsenal, especially his split fingered fastball. The early results are extremely encouraging on Tanaka. As history has proved, it is very hard to predict how a pitchers' pitches will translate from one league to another.
In 2006 Daisuke Matsuzaka was the best pitcher in Japan's Professional Baseball League, the NPB. Pitching for the Seibu Lions, he had a wide array of pitches and was deemed un-hittable. Matsuzaka had a secret "weapon" pitch known as the "Gyro" ball and the Boston Red Sox gambled 103 million on it. The gamble did not pay off and the" Gyro" ball was exposed as a "changeup" that did not fool American League hitters. Matsuzaka, who currently pitches for the New York Mets, has compiled a 53-40 record with a 4.52 ERA in seven Major League seasons.
Tanaka's pitch could prove to have a different outcome than Daisuke's. Tanaka's pitch is not a "trick" pitch, it's a fastball. And it's a fastball that has been popping the Yankee catcher's gloves, early this spring training. Everyone in camp seems to be impressed with the pitch, everyone except Tanaka. "I don't recall anyone telling me that they've never seen anything like that before. But some people have told me that it's a really, really good pitch. I feel that I could get a little bit better just throwing in the bullpen", Tanaka said through his interpreter on Friday. Tanaka threw off the mound for the first time this spring and hasn't thrown in a game since November 3, 2013 in game seven of the Japan Series. Tanaka earned the save for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in that game and helped lead his team to the Nippon Professional Baseball Championship.
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