The Yankees lost, 3-1, in Ft. Myers to the Minnesota Twins in Masahiro Tanaka‘s final spring training start, and he allowed one more earned run than he had in his previous three starts combined. This was his final line: 4.1 IP, 7 hits, 3 ER,1 strikeout, 0 BB and 76 pitches.
The main takeaway from this final appearance in the exhibition season for Tanaka is that he is healthy and doesn’t have any pain in his right elbow. He was diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last July, and he had to miss about 2.5 months until making two starts at the end of the season.
Tanaka’s fastball was mainly 87-90 mph, which is slower than last season, but it did get up to 92 on the radar gun. He has admitted than his fastball has been slower than it was last season because he has been waiting until the regular season to give 100 percent effort on his pitches.
Holding back a little had not prevented him from being effective during spring training since before today’s start he had only allowed two earned runs in 10.1 innings. He ends spring training with a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched. He allowed 13 hits, five earned runs and two homers and most importantly 13 strikeouts and only one walk. It makes sense that he decided to wait until Opening Day to throw his best stuff because he is coming off of an injury and spring training stats aren’t that meaningful for a pitcher like him.
In the third inning, Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar smashed a double to right and would score on Chris Herrmann’s single. In the fourth inning, in what would be Tanaka’s third earned run and final batter, Escobar hit a solo homer.
Chris Martin, who is a 6’8″ hard throwing righty who had a 2.25 ERA while pitching in Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, retired all six batters that he faced (and had three strikeouts) in relief of Tanaka. He struggled in 15.2 innings pitched with the Colorado Rockies last season in what was his major-league debut at 28 (6.89 ERA), but the Yankees, who acquired him in January, like his potential. He is still being considered for a bullpen spot, but if not he will be sent to Triple-A and could be sent up when the need arises.
(Five years ago, Chris Martin was out of baseball and working at a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Arlington, Texas, not sure if his baseball career was over.) He is still being considered
Chris Young scored the only run of the game for the Yankees in the fourth inning. He will be valuable as the fourth outfielder this season because he is reliable defensively, he has speed and he also has some power. Young was driven in by Ramon Flores, who picked up his eighth RBI of the spring. The Yankees would have scored more runs but Nick Noonan left two runners in scoring position with two outs.
As spring training comes to an end, the starters are for the most part going into the regular season with momentum. Michael Pineda and Nate Eovaldi have both dominated during spring training, Tanaka is healthy and has pitched effectively, CC Sabathia is throwing with increased velocity compared to last season and Adam Warren has a 2.70 ERA in 16.2 innings.
Tanaka’s continued health is important because he has the ability to be the ace of the staff and one of the best pitchers in the American League. The Yankees will have trouble making the playoffs if Tanaka misses more than a few starts and isn’t close to the pitcher that he was last season.