Notes: Tanaka progressing; Paxton tweaks form

July 12th, 2020

NEW YORK -- was in right field at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, playing catch through the raindrops. The Yankees' right-hander noticed a group of photographers capturing images from the 200 level, then heaved a baseball into the empty seats near them, laughing as he offered a wave.

One week after sustaining a concussion when he was hit in the head by a 112 mph line-drive, Tanaka has continued to show remarkable progress. Saturday marked Tanaka’s second time throwing a ball since the injury.

“It's amazing,” left-hander said. “He seems completely normal. I think we got extremely lucky in that situation. It could have been way worse, and he's bounced back incredibly. He looks great. You know, same old Masa.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that while Tanaka remains under Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol program, he has been able to perform cardio exercise without any significant issues.

“We’re moving slowly with Masa, just making sure,” Boone said. “He's responding well to the elevated heart rate stuff; he's on the bike, on the elliptical, doing his arm care work and responding well. There’s no plan in place about when exactly [more] things are going to happen, but he is at least responding how we’d hoped.”

Working the angles
Paxton said that he tinkered with his arm angle on Friday when he threw 66 pitches from an indoor mound at Yankee Stadium, a session that featured Boone holding a bat while standing in the batter’s box.

“He had a menacing hitter that he was looking at,” Boone said. “He looked good; another good step for Pax.”

Returning from February back surgery, Paxton believed that his arm angle felt slightly low after arriving at Summer Camp, and he said that Friday’s session should correct that issue. Paxton anticipates pitching in two intrasquad games, and possibly one of the Bombers’ three exhibitions, before the regular season begins.

“I think the next step for me is finding the velocity,” Paxton said. “I'm not really a guy that gets that velocity in bullpens or anything like that, so that'll be more of a game-time thing when the adrenaline starts pumping. It'll be good to see some mid-to-high-90s numbers come in there. That'll really show me that I'm 100 percent back.”

Gimme five

The Yankees experimented with a five-man infield during Saturday’s intrasquad game, with right fielder Tyler Wade stationed behind second base. Brett Gardner remained in left field, with center fielder Aaron Hicks shaded toward right field. Boone called it “the Zack Britton package,” and said that the team nearly used it behind the sinkerballer in a regular-season game last year.

"If it's the right matchup, we probably wouldn't hesitate to go with that five-man,” Boone said. “We'd be willing to do it with Aaron Hicks [in the infield]. Aaron Hicks has worked on it quite a bit, but last year, with him being out a lot, some of the outfield-alignment situations didn't lend itself to that being possible. So if we have the right grouping out there and the right matchup at the plate, it is something that we would consider using.”

Keystone combo

PNC Field, the home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is nearly ready to serve as the Yankees’ alternate training site. Boone said that select players will begin reporting to the Moosic, Pa., facility within the next week. Teams are permitted to send up to 20 players who are not on the 40-man roster to their alternate facility. When the regular season begins on July 23, players who are not on the Yankees’ 30-man roster will be assigned to work out at the Minor League ballpark.

He said it

“All our team does play video games. I'm not too worried about my team going out and getting wild, because they like their video games.” -- Hicks, on how the Yankees will handle regular-season travel

Up next

The Yankees will continue their Summer Camp at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, with an intrasquad game scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET. The YES Network will air coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.