Spring Training is a time for ballplayers to shake off the rust and go into the season in a dominant state.
But if you’re ace Masahiro Tanaka, it’s almost as if you don’t need Spring Training.
Tanaka made three starts for the Yankees this Spring and has yet to allow a run. On Saturday, Tanaka pitched four perfect innings while striking out seven, including the first six batters of the ballgame. Tanaka credited having the two-seam fastball as a go-to pitch while scouts were impressed with his off-speed pitches.
“I’d love to see him take that stuff into the regular season,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said after the Yankees came away with a 7-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday afternoon.
Tanaka continues to dominate in Spring Training, and his recent work is making fans forget he’s actually pitching with a slight tear in his elbow. Despite the tear, Tanaka hopes he can pitch at least 220 to 230 innings in 2017. Tanaka was one out shy of reaching the 200 inning mark in 2016.
Even though Tanaka dominated against the Detroit Tigers lineup, he reminded reporters that the best players are currently playing in the World Baseball Classic. In other words, the stats for this start meant nothing to him.
“Obviously you want the results,” Tanaka said via his interpreter. “But you can’t just look at that. We have the WBC — not to downgrade anybody, but a lot of the good players are playing in the WBC. So the guys that you’re facing might be a little bit different, too. So in that regard, it wouldn’t be really safe to look just at the results.”
If Tanaka continues to dominate into the regular season, he could be one of the deciding factors to the Yankees having a good season.
All we can do is hope. And if everything goes the Yankees way, they could be a force to be reckoned against their American League East rivals.