Report: Yankees will be “serious players” for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka

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If you haven’t heard of Masahiro Tanaka yet, it’s time to get familiar with him. The bidding for his services is about to get serious.

According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Yankees are going to be “serious players” for the 24-year-old right-hander this winter as they attempt to fill holes in their starting rotation. The team has done their homework here, as they sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and scout Don Wakamatsu to watch him extensively this season. It’s safe to say they liked what they saw, as Tanaka went 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA during the regular season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League.

Known for his devastating splitter, Tanaka is widely considered the best pitcher in Japan now that Yu Darvish is in the states and at least one scout thinks that he might actually be better.

“He is better than Darvish because he is a strike thrower,’’ the scout said. “Overall, Darvish’s stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like Kuroda, he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it’s fastball and splitter.’’

High praise. Like Darvish, Tanaka would have to go through the posting process in order to sign with an MLB team. The Rangers paid $60 million to secure exclusive negotiating rights with Darvish two offseasons ago and eventually signed him to a six-year, $51.7 million contract. A posting fee for Tanaka wouldn’t count towards a team’s payroll, which is something to keep in mind with the Yankees attempting to stay under $189 million next season.

Of course, the Yankees will have plenty of competition for Tanaka’s services. King hears from one source that the usual suspects like the Red Sox, Rangers, and Dodgers will also be in the mix.

The Angels were the first team to use up all of their mound visits

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Last night’s Angels-Astros game was a long affair with a bunch of homers and the use of 11 pitchers in all. The Angels used six pitchers and all of that business led to plenty of conferences. Six, in fact, which is their allotment under the new rule capping mound visits. As far as I can tell, that makes the Angels the first team to use up all of their mound visits since the advent of the rule.

Sadly, they did not try to go for a seventh, thereby testing the currently unknown limits of the rule. Umpires have been instructed to not allow additional mound visits, but they cannot issue balls or tackle anyone or anything to enforce it. Presumably, if Maldonado had walked out to talk to Cam Bedrosian about the weather or where he was going to dinner after the game, the home plate umpire would’ve simply done the old Robin Williams English policeman’s bit of yelling “Stop! . . . or I shall yell ‘Stop!’ again!” Maybe a fine would issue later, but we’ll never know.

At least until someone breaks the limit. And we know someone will, right? We should have a betting pool on who does it.