TAMPA — Masahiro Tanaka is entering his seventh year with the Yankees, and the one constant across the first six was his attention to detail.
So, as the 31-year-old right-hander prepares for his seventh — and a longshot possibility of this being his last as a Yankee — he continues to assess everything.
“A couple of pitches obviously need to be cleaned up,’’ Tanaka said after his slider and splitter didn’t behave exactly how he wanted during a two-inning stint against the Nationals in a rain-shortened 8-2 Yankees victory Wednesday afternoon. “But overall for the most part I like how most of my pitches were coming out of my hand and I was able to make adjustments.’’
Tanaka’s plan entering the exhibition game season was to increase the amount of cutters he uses and the action on them.
Wednesday, he did just that.
“I can’t clearly remember, but quite a few,’’ Tanaka said when asked how many cutters he threw.
What Tanaka, who can be a free agent after this season, was satisfied with was the action on the pitch.
“I liked the way it was coming out of my hand, how it was moving and I was able to see the hitter’s reaction,’’ said Tanaka, who gave up a single to Andrew Stevenson in the first and a two-run homer to Raudy Read in the second.
“I thought he was good. He gave up the home run on the split, obviously, but I thought he was good,’’ manager Aaron Boone said of his likely No. 2 starter. “It was a good build toward his season.’’
Some pitchers have noticed a difference in the baseballs from a year ago, when pitchers groused the balls were hard and the seams low and led to record home-run totals. Tanaka agreed but said he will wait until the games count to see if the balls compare to last year’s.
“So far, yes. But you look back at last year it feels like it was good in spring training then changed once the season starts,’’ Tanaka said. “The one we are using right now is pretty similar to the one we used last spring. But that is just how I feel.’’