TAMPA, Fla. -- If Masahiro Tanaka's performance reaches his lofty expectations this season, the Yankees right-hander may credit a training journey to Australia as a key.Tanaka said he spent two weeks in the Australian city of Gold Coast over the winter, accompanied by former teammates from his days with the
TAMPA, Fla. -- If Masahiro Tanaka's performance reaches his lofty expectations this season, the Yankees right-hander may credit a training journey to Australia as a key.
Tanaka said he spent two weeks in the Australian city of Gold Coast over the winter, accompanied by former teammates from his days with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
"No family members; it was basically just players," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "The reason why we decided to go there is the weather is a little warmer compared to Japan. One of the players who went along with us had some connections over there, so we could use the facility."
As a result, Tanaka said his throwing program is further along than it would typically be. Coming off a season in which he was 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts, Tanaka said the trip allowed him to fine-tune his mechanics and he hopes it will pay dividends.
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"I think he comes here in a really good place," manager Aaron Boone said. "My expectations are that he is going to go and be the dynamic pitcher that he has been for us his entire career. He was arguably our best pitcher down the stretch. I expect him to be a huge part of our rotation yet again. He worked really hard in the winter, and all signs point to him being similar to the guy he's been his entire career."
Six seasons after his celebrated arrival from Japan -- and 5 1/2 years removed from sustaining a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow -- Tanaka said he is no longer conscious of the injury, and does not exercise the elbow more than any other area of his body.
"I actually don't remember when I had the last real assessment with the doctor," Tanaka said. "We come to Spring Training and the doctor is there, and he asked me about it. But it's just an 'is it OK?' type of conversation. The assessment from the doctor was, 'You're going to be OK without going with the surgery.' It's just been good so far."
Boone said he must always be cautious and aware of the partial tear, but there have been no red flags.
"I think it's a tribute to Masa and the way he prepares and the way he conditions himself, and to all the medical and strength and conditioning people around him that help him get prepared," Boone said. "He's been able to pitch for a number of years at a high level with those questions seemingly always surrounding him."
Baby on board
Yankees pitchers and catchers enjoyed their first workout of the spring on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, minus one member of the vaunted bullpen. Dellin Betances was granted a late report to camp after he and his wife, Janisa, welcomed a baby boy, whom they named Dellin Jr.
"Everything is going well," Boone said. "We'll wait and see when she is discharged from the hospital. We expect him here probably sometime in the next few days, but first things first about getting baby and Mom and everyone home healthy. I wouldn't expect it to be too long."
No Yankees player had ever sported the No. 0 before Adam Ottavino's jog to a practice diamond on Thursday morning. The right-hander has worn the digit the past six seasons with the Rockies, and seems to be amused that his selection generated so much attention.
"I didn't want to do anything to upset people, but I had to be myself," Ottavino said. "I didn't know what the organization would think, so I said the ball was in their court. For me, it's just a number. It's something that I'm comfortable with."
Ottavino backed away from his comments made in December, when he told the MLB.com Statcast™ podcast that he would strike out Babe Ruth "every time."
"It's a silly thing," Ottavino said. "He's long gone. It's a different time period. I wasn't trying to disrespect a legend, obviously. Maybe I shouldn't have used that name."
• CC Sabathia's name appeared on a list of pitchers scheduled for fielding practice, but Boone said the left-hander will probably skip the first two weeks of drills to guard his surgically repaired right knee. Boone said Sabathia should begin that work around March 1.
• Eight pitchers threw bullpen sessions, including Luis Severino, who worked with Gary Sánchez. Others taking the hill were: Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa, Stephen Tarpley, Chance Adams, Cale Coshow, Phillip Diehl and David Hale.
• Ron Guidry has arrived in camp as a special guest instructor. An All-Star cast is scheduled to attend camp, including newly minted Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Other familiar faces will include: Carlos Beltran, Reggie Jackson, Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Andy Pettitte, Willie Randolph, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Swisher and Bernie Williams.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.