FORT MYERS, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka wanted to make the two-hour-plus bus ride on Saturday to face major-league hitters rather than stay back in Tampa and pitch in a minor-league game, as his countryman and teammate Hiroki Kuroda did.
Chances are it wasn’t entirely up to Tanaka anyway. The $155 million righthander is a major-league rookie and Kuroda is a veteran. Rookies get on the bus, even ones as well paid as Tanaka.
Tanaka allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Twins in front of a Hammond Stadium record crowd of 9,298. In his fourth appearance of spring training, Tanaka allowed five hits, walked one, struck out six and hit a batter in a 92-pitch effort.
“I thought that it was really obvious that I had good innings and I had bad innings out there today,” he said through a translator.
Said Joe Girardi: “He did all right. I’ve seen him sharper. I thought the first three innings he struggled with his command… Overall, I was pleased because I don’t think he had his great stuff today.”
With Opening Day in Houston nine days away, the Yankees are pleased with how their rotation is shaping up.
CC Sabathia followed up his five no-hit innings against the Marlins in Panama by throwing seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts against the Pirates Friday night. Sabathia, who will start the opener April 1, has allowed four hits in his last 12 innings.
Sabathia’s fastball is still in the 89-91-mph range, but he is buoyed by how good he feels after last season’s 14-13, 4.78 disappointment.
“It’s spring training,” Sabathia said. “I do feel like I have a lot to prove, but it kind of is what it is. I wasn’t right last year. I wasn’t the same guy. I feel confident, I feel strong. Hopefully, I can carry this into the season … If I pitch like this April 1, then I’ll be happy.”
Ivan Nova will face minor leaguers on Monday as the rest of the Yankees will have the day off. Nova threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Braves’ regular lineup in his last outing.
Girardi indicated the fifth-starter battle between Michael Pineda and David Phelps will be resolved by Tuesday. Pineda, the favorite, pitches against the Blue Jays today. He shut out Boston’s ‘B’ lineup for 4 1/3 innings in his last outing.
Phelps isn’t making it easy, though. He gave up two runs in six innings to the Red Sox’s ‘A’ lineup Thursday. But Phelps’ versatility — an ability to pitch in relief that Pineda lacks — probably will relegate the righthander to the Yankees’ unsettled bullpen.
“Everybody’s doing well, thankfully,” general manager Brian Cashman said of the fifth-starter battle, which (at least officially) still includes Adam Warren and Vidal Nuño. “It’s been the best of all scenarios so far. They’re making it tough. Whoever doesn’t get picked will be disappointed and would have a right to be.”