TAMPA, Fla. – Masahiro Tanaka’s signature pitch will always be the splitter.
But he’s been working on his cutter this spring, a pitch the Yankees right-hander might feature more during the 2020 season.
“I liked the way it was coming out of my hand, how it was moving and I was able to see the hitter’s reaction,’’ Tanaka said through an interpreter after his two inning spring debut start on Wednesday against the Nationals.
Andy Pettitte had been working with Tanaka on the cutter grip, and manager Aaron Boone is intrigued about how that pitch could enhance Tanaka’s other weapons.
Tanaka’s splitter was more consistent in last year’s second half and his slider was “a real consistent pitch’’ all season in 2019, Boone said.
If the cutter can become a factor, “that could make his split a little more effective, especially to left-hand (hitters),’’ Boone said. “If he can have that presence inside, the opens it up for the split really well.’’
In addition, Tanaka likes the feel of the baseballs used in spring training; they’ve got a different feel than the ones used during last year’s regular season, when home runs soared.
But Tanaka cautioned that the baseballs felt the same last spring training as they do now, only to change in the regular season. So, stay tuned.