After a terrific outing from Masahiro Tanaka who threw two scoreless innings in his spring debut with the New York Yankees, striking out three and giving up two singles, General Manager Brian Cashman said Tanaka will be the number three pitcher in the lineup.
The event was televised by three Japan networks Saturday as Tanaka entered in relief in the fifth inning. His splitter was amazing. He said he felt a warm welcome and will do his best to be sure cheers do not turn into booing.
I thought he was fantastic and see him as a number one starter. I know the Yankees are not trying to get their hopes up too quickly, but this guy is a game changer. How the Yankee season goes could really depend on how good he pitches. No one signs a number three pitcher to a seven-year, $155 million contract.
I am very excited about this, because I believe Michael Pineda can be the true number 3 guy. He pitched a simulated game on Sunday and Manager Joe Girardi said his stuff is close to where it was in 2011 when he had a 97 MPH fast ball. His shoulder injury two years ago was a disappointment, but this year he gets the chance to prove himself. He pitches on Friday.
Last time I talked about pitching I did not even mention Pineda. In reality the starters by June should be Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. Girardi will probably put Sabathia first and Pineda fifth, but still it is looking better every day. Of course injuries could play a dramatic role and David Phelps will get his starts.
Perhaps, the biggest news since my last column is that the Captain has announced this will be his last year. There is no one like Derek Jeter. I do not see any Yankee on the line-up taking his place or getting the name of Captain.
Jeter is a once in a lifetime player. It was tough to see Mariano Rivera retire, but nowhere near as hard as Jeter. In my opinion Jeter is the greatest Yankee ever. Babe Ruth is a distant second.
The only other player on any team that compares was Cal Ripken Jr. for the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken will also be remembered forever. These guys are truly all-stars.
Yankees start the season April 1 away against the Houston Astros at 7 p.m. The home opener is April 7 against Baltimore at 1 p.m. Believe it or not the season is only a bit over three weeks away.