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.
Roger Clemens will be an analyst for ESPN when the defending World Series champion Houston Astros host the Chicago White Sox on opening day.
Clemens made four appearances on last year’s KayRod Cast with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. He will be stepping in on March 30 for David Cone, who will be doing the New York Yankees opener against the San Francisco Giants on YES Network.
“Roger has been sort of a friend of ours for the last year, so to speak, he’s in. He’s been engaged, knowledgeable and really present,” said ESPN Vice President of Production Phil Orlins. “You know, whatever past may be, he’s still tremendously engaged and he really brought that every time he was with us.”
Clemens was a seven-time Cy Young winner but his career after baseball has been tainted by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. He is a Houston native and pitched for the Astros for three seasons.
Orlins said that with the rules changes and pitch clock, it is important to have a pitcher in the booth with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez.
“We don’t feel like we have to have the dynamic of Eduardo with a pitcher, but we certainly think that works. Throw in the added factor of rule changes and it is better to have a batter-pitcher perspective,” Orlins said.
Orlins did not say if this would open the door for future opportunities for Clemens as an ESPN analyst.