Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tanaka's Strong Impression

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tanaka's Strong Impression

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - From the batter's box, a wide-eyed Austin Romine turned to Yankees catcher Brian McCann for clarification.

Masahiro Tanaka's delivery had just disappeared into McCann's glove, and Romine wasn't sure if he'd just seen the Japanese right- hander's famous splitter or some other unidentified illusion.

"I've never seen anything like that before," Romine said. "You're going to see a lot of guys swinging, looking like fools on that pitch. I can already tell."

Once Tanaka completed his first mound session of camp with hitters, McCann noted that Tanaka was "as good as advertised. I know it's only a live bullpen, but you could tell he's got the stuff."

On a quiet, overcast Friday morning, a large contingent of Japanese and Metropolitan-area media witnessed Romine and three young outfielders - Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia and Antoan Richardson - make minimal contact against Tanaka.

Of course, the hitters were mostly tracking his pitches. But there were a few swings and misses from the rookies, with only a weak groundball to second by Garcia and a couple of topped foul balls by Richardson, batting left-handed.

"Just to have the batter in the batter's box, to throw inside and outside as well - I feel pretty good about what I did today," Tanaka said through his interpreter.

General manager Brian Cashman watched from behind the batting cage as Tanaka threw without a protective screen in front of him. Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild stood behind a screen between the mound and second base.

As for all the other eyes on him, in an otherwise empty stadium, Tanaka said, "It doesn't feel very strange." He's already been used to such attention for rather mundane baseball activities in Japan.

But there was a genuine buzz attached to Tanaka's first time on the Steinbrenner Field mound.

"I'm glad he's on our team," Romine said. …

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