TAMPA, FLORIDA – New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka overwhelmed minor leaguers in his first simulated game of the spring camp on Wednesday, striking out five of six batters with his 30 pitches.
“It was better than I was expecting. I’m satisfied,” said Tanaka, who started with a strike against all six and didn’t allow a single clean hit.
Following a discussion with his coach, Tanaka threw 31 pitches in the bullpen and went straight off to face batters, reckoning that’s the only way to check his current condition and skipping the usual process of having pitching practice with a standing batter in the box.
“All my types of pitches had stability,” Tanaka said with a grin. “Maybe I’m someone for the actual games.”
The 27-year-old, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery in October to remove a bone spur, took a big step in his recovery, hurling more than 60 pitches on two days’ rest. He’s kept the two-day break cycle and been steadily increasing the number of pitches after throwing 25 on the first day of camp on Feb. 19.
In Peoria, Arizona, Norichika Aoki became the first Japanese big leaguer to play in a preseason game this year, starting for the Seattle Mariners against the San Diego Padres. He was hitless in two at-bats and could have been over-excited at the chance of playing for the old club of his hero Ichiro Suzuki.
“It was my first game in a while. The pitches looked faster but I’ll take time to adjust to that,” said Aoki. “I’ve totally mistaken that.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m with the team for the first time when I’m in the clubhouse,” added Aoki of the Mariners, for whom pitchers Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shigetoshi Hasegawa also played.