Masahiro Tanaka threw his first live session of batting practice this past Friday, facing five hitters and throwing twenty-five pitches. According to those who were there, Tanaka's doing nothing but showing the electric stuff that helped him go 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last year.
"He is as good as advertised," Brian McCann, who caught Tanaka for the first time during the session, told the New York Post. "You can tell he has the stuff." Especially impressive was apparently Tanaka's split-finger, which has already earned rave reviews from scouts and players in the Japanese league, and it looks like it will be Tanaka's most devastating pitch. "It falls off the table," McCann said. "The motion is the same as the fastball and that's the key to getting swings and misses. You look for motion as a hitter and it's the same release point. It looks like a fastball all the way in and it drops pretty good."
Austin Romine, who was one of the batters Tanaka faced, was also blown away by how good it looked. "I think he threw a split and I had to turn around and ask what the pitch was," he told MLB.com. "I've never seen a ball move like that before. It's special."
Romine predicts a lot of other hitters will have trouble with the splitter as well. "You're going to see a lot of guys swinging and looking like fools on that pitch. I can already tell that." He also added, "I'm glad he's on our team."
The fact that Tanaka wasn't even pitching at full strength yet is especially promising, McCann said Tanaka looked like he was throwing at about eighty percent, while Tanaka himself said he was only giving seventy percent. If this is seventy percent, I cannot wait to see what Tanaka giving it his all looks like. While it's just batting practice in spring training, it's nice to hear really positive things about Tanaka. After the Yankees spent $155 million locking him up for seven years, it'd be great if he ends up being as good as advertised.