Via Ben Balder (subs. req’d): The Yankees were one of five teams with scouts on hand to watch right-hander Masahiro Tanaka make his most recent start for the Rakuten Golden Eagles over the weekend. The Braves, Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Red Sox were also in attendance. We recently heard the Yankees have had assistant GM Billy Eppler and special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu watch the righty.
Tanaka, 24, threw 128 pitches while striking out eleven and allowing two runs in the complete game win. “After lacking the typical crispness on his pitches in his previous outing, Tanaka returned to the mound on Friday with a swing-and-miss fastball and excellent splitter against the Fighters,” wrote Badler, who said Tanaka was sitting 90-94 with his fastball and 84-89 with the splitter. He also threw some sliders, though it is clearly his third pitch. Here are highlights from the game (Andruw Jones sighting!).
The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka this winter and although the Yankees haven’t been all that aggressive on big money international players in recent years, they are clearly doing their homework. They’re going to need pitching this winter one way or the other and Tanaka could be a fit. He is the best pitcher in Japan but is not another Yu Darvish, and in fact there are concerns his fastball is too flat despite good velocity. Tanaka has a 1.24 ERA this year with an excellent walk rate (1.3 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%)) but just an okay strikeout rate (7.7 K/9 and 22.1 K%).