CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A steady rain, an 86-minute delay and even a tornado warning couldn't keep soaked fans away from Masahiro Tanaka's first spring start.
The New York Yankees signed the 25-year-old right-hander from Japan to a seven-year, $155 million contract this offseason. And except for one pitch Thursday afternoon, he was as good as advertised.
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Tanaka cruised through his three-inning stint against the Philadelphia Phillies, retiring nine of the 11 batters he faced, giving up a run on two hits. The one blemish came when Phils shortstop Freddy Galvis drilled a 3-1 fastball for a home run to right field.
"I didn't feel I was at the top of my game today," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Overall, including the results and everything, I feel I did okay."
Otherwise, Tanaka induced seven ground-ball outs, one fly out and got second baseman Chase Utley on a splitter for his only strikeout.
"Considering how the wind was blowing today, I thought it would be better to get more ground outs," Tanaka said.
That's precisely the approach that made him so successful in Japan. Tanaka throws seven different pitches, but the splitter is his most effective. Overall, he threw 41 pitches, 25 of them for strikes.
"One of the marks of a strikeout pitcher (is) when you see guys really getting fooled on pitches," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "There were a bunch of swing and misses there today."
The only other hit Tanaka allowed came in the second inning on a pitch that seemed to fool right fielder Marlon Byrd, but Byrd still managed to shoot it to the gap in right-center field for a double.
The Phillies lineup included several of their regular starters – including Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown and Carlos Ruiz, in addition to Utley and Byrd. Tanaka had said facing front-line hitters was important to him as he acclimates himself to the major leagues after seven years in Japan.
"Looking at some of the broadcasts back in Japan of the major league games you get to a chance to see batters like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard," Tanaka said. "Going up on the mound and facing them today you realize for instance, Ryan Howard is further back in that batter's box than I thought he would be."
Last season in Japan, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan League title. He's expected to slot as the Yankees No. 3 starter this season behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.
In addition to Teixeira, Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano also made his spring debut. Both were hitless in three trips to the plate. Soriano struck out all three times.
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