TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka was happy with his performance in a brief appearance for the New York Yankees in a spring training game on Friday, with every pitch from the big-money signing heavily scrutinized by the team, the media and expectant fans alike.
Tanaka enters the upcoming season with enormous expectations after signing a $155 million, seven-year contract, and having gone 24-0 in his last season in Japan, so Friday's initial mound appearance against Philadelphia was the subject of intense focus.
He pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three batters and giving up a pair of singles.
"I felt pretty good out there," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I was nervous, but it was a really good nervousness. I'm relieved to be able to throw against the batters over here."
Tanaka came into the game after C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda each pitched two innings. Some fans in the announced crowd of 10,934 at Steinbrenner Field stood when Tanaka went to the mound to a loud ovation.
"A buzz around the park," Sabathia said.
Tanaka was in control the whole way.
"The biggest thing was he looked calm out there," Kuroda said of his countryman through an interpreter. "And the command was there, so he was good."
Darin Ruf, the first batter Tanaka faced, swung and missed at Tanaka's first two pitches before lining a single to center. After getting a pair of flyballs, Tanaka struck out a swinging Cesar Hernandez.
In the sixth, Tanaka fanned a swinging Ben Revere on an impressive splitter before Ronny Cedeno blooped a single. All-Star Domonic Brown went down swinging and pinch-hitter Kelly Dugan flied out.
The fans again cheered for Tanaka as he departed, en route to be greeted by his new teammates, who lined the top step in the dugout to offer congratulations.
"I was encouraged by what I saw, how he handled it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "People were eager to see him pitch. The guys on our team were eager to see him pitch."
Tanaka is expected to make his first regular-season start in New York's third or fourth game
The Yankees said Saturday's game was carried by three TV networks in Japan.
Tanaka, however, doubted that family or friends watched it live back home, where it was early in the morning.
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"Probably not," he said with a smile. "Because they're all sleeping."
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