While Masahiro Tanaka will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Yankees in early April, the 28-year-old is currently in the midst of preparing for his first true appearance next Tuesday.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Tanaka threw 74 pitches on a bullpen mound and during a simulated game on Thursday morning at the George M. Steinbrenner complex. 30 of those pitches were thrown to teammates Chase Headley, Brett Gardner and Chris Carter in two full innings.
“Overall I think I feel the condition of my body is better than last year around the same time,” Tanaka told the AP via his translator. “Just a little bit ahead. Started training a little bit earlier than the previous year.”
Tanaka gave up a single to Headley and also forced a double play grounder from Carter after walking the previous batter.
“He looked crisp. He looked like himself,” Headley told Bryan Hoch of yankees.com. “It looked like the ball was coming out easy. I think that’s what you look for this time of year.”
Pitching coach Larry Rothchild was also pleased with Tanaka’s performance.
“The arm speed is good,” Rothschild said. “Right now he’s in a good spot. We just need to make sure it stays that way.”
In three seasons with New York, Tanaka is 39-16 with a 3.12 ERA in 75 starts. He is eligible to opt out of his seven-year, $155 million contract ($23 million salary from 2018-20) at the end of the season, but Tanaka has told reporters he has no interest in discussing his future with the Yankees during the regular season.