Yankees meet with Tanaka to get on same page
Right-hander has emphasized that he will throw more offspeed pitches this year
NEW YORK -- The Yankees met with Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday in an attempt to get on the same page, believing something may have been lost in translation with the hurler's recent comments.
Tanaka said last Saturday in Washington, D.C., that he expected his velocity to drop this season because he is emphasizing his two-seam fastball above his four-seamer. Tanaka threw just 27 fastballs out of 82 pitches on Monday, working four innings in a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Opening Day.
"We asked about it and the question was asked about the velocity and everything," manager Joe Girardi said. "He said, 'Well, I'm going to pitch different.' What he was trying to say is, 'I'm not a guy that throws 96, 97, 98 [mph]. I use my offspeed a lot. I did last year. I'm a guy that throws sliders and splits and throws some fastballs.' It's about one-third of each one of them, in a sense. I think he got tired of answering the question. He was asked a lot about it."
Over his three starts following the partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament, two last September and one on Monday, Tanaka has thrown a grand total of 19 four-seamers. In Monday's start, Tanaka used his slider 26 times, his split 25 times and his two-seamer 22 times, while using his four-seamer just five times, according to Brooks Baseball.
In Tanaka's first 18 starts of the 2014 season, he used his splitter 25.75 percent of the time. His four-seamer was the next-most used pitch, at 21.96 percent, followed by the slider at 21.54 percent and two-seamer at 19.3 percent. He used his cutter (5.92 percent), curve (5.44 percent) and changeup (0.11) sparingly.
"From my conversations with him, it's a strategic thing," Girardi said. "He knows that his four-seamer got hit some last year, and that really comes down to location. I think the important thing for him is that, whichever one he's locating better, it's the one he uses that day for the most part. He is a guy that gets 90 percent of his outs on sliders and splits.
"The fastball is to kind of set up the slider and the split. He needs to locate. I mean, he got in bad counts the other day. He didn't really pitch Toronto much different than he did the last time he beat them in June, but he made mistakes and that was the difference."
For all the talk of Tanaka's velocity, which the hurler himself made into a hot topic by volunteering the two-seamer decision on March 25 in Tampa, Fla., he did touch 94 mph with his four-seamer Monday and sat mostly 90-91 mph. The Yankees contend that if Tanaka were injured, he probably would not be able to fire his splitter at 87 mph, as he did on Monday.
"I think I'm probably going to be asked that question every time he probably has a bad start," Girardi said. "Let's not forget, this is his second year in the league. Teams are going to adjust to him, and he's going to have to make some adjustments as teams adjust. But he's been really good at making adjustments so far. I would put my money on him making adjustments as teams adjust to him. That's kind of the way it works."