Masahiro Tanaka says he’s changing his style, doesn’t expect to throw as hard this season

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Where the Yankees go this season could hinge on the health and effectiveness of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, which is why his comments today are pretty interesting:

Tanaka was good this spring, posting a 3.07 ERA and 13/1 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings, but his velocity has been noticeably lower than it was last year and he’s relying more on his two-seam fastball. He previously told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he’s adjusting his pitch mix because his four-seamer was “vulnerable” last year, but this is also presumably part of a plan to protect the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Whether it will keep Tanaka from requiring Tommy John surgery is anybody’s guess, but seeing him try to get by on diminished stuff this year will be fascinating.

Tanaka, who had a 2.77 ERA over 20 starts in his first year stateside, is scheduled to pitch Opening Day on Monday against the Blue Jays.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.