New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka pitched in a simulated game Tuesday, giving up a home run and striking out nine in four innings.
The Japanese pitching sensation said he was encouraged by his ability to use his curveball for first-pitch strikes.
Tanaka threw 63 pitches, 49 for strikes, while pitching coach Larry Rothschild and special assistant Trey Hillman watched from behind a screen. Tanaka faced 18 simulated hitters, giving up three hits to a pair of minor leaguers. At one point, he threw 16 consecutive strikes.
Minor league left-hander Jake Cave hit a home run to left field on a chest-high inside fastball. Minor leaguer Cito Culver had two singles.
Tanaka, 25, said he did his best to make the simulated game feel like true competition.
“I took it as part of practice and just wanted to go out there and work on some of the stuff I wanted to work on,” he said through his translator. “Mainly the splitter and also the location of the fastballs. And I felt that I was able to get some first strikes from my curve ball. So that was one of the good parts of today’s simulated game.”
In five innings of spring training games, Tanaka has given up one run and four hits while striking out four and walking none.
The right-hander, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year while leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title, is scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.
Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January.