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“I’ll take the results of how I did this spring thus far, but if you look at today’s game, I felt like I was still all over the place,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “My command definitely could have been sharper. Adjustments need to be made, but the results, I’ll take.”
Opposing Tanaka, Phillies righty Vince Velasquez looked sharp early, facing the minimum through 3 1/3 innings before running into trouble. With one out in the fourth, he walked Gary Sanchez before Bird launched a two-run homer deep to right-center field. The hit snapped a 9 1/3-innings streak in which Velasquez allowed no hits, struck out 13 and walked seven.
Two innings later, the first three Yankees scored to extend the lead to 5-0. After Brett Gardner reached on an error and Sanchez laced a single off the right-field wall, Bird once again took Velasquez out of the park, this time to straightaway right. The homers were Bird’s team-leading fifth and sixth this spring.
“It’s fun to be back playing,” Bird said. “I know I keep saying that, but I feel good and I feel good playing. I feel good when I go home and the next day, so that’s nice. I didn’t have that for a long time, so I’m just enjoying that.”
“That was the whole mentality, just pitching to contact, trying to work down in the zone,” Velasquez said after the game of the two low fastballs Bird hit deep. “Everything was down, Bird just got a good swing on it and got the barrel on it.”
Velasquez struggled last season to pitch past the sixth, a focal point of his Spring Training.
“The goal is to go at least six innings or more,” he said. “I was a little bit short of 90 [pitches], but there’s 10 extra pitches left there that I can do something with next inning.”
Cesar Hernandez, who went 2-for-3, singled to lead off the bottom of the first, snapping Tanaka’s streak of 25 consecutive at-bats without allowing a hit. Despite allowing a baserunner in each inning, Tanaka spread them out, never pitching with multiple runners on at once.
Yankees Up Next: The Yankees will visit the Rays on Thursday in Port Charlotte, Fla., giving lefty Jordan Montgomery his first start of the spring at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. Manager Joe Girardi said he is “very curious” about the Yanks’ No. 13 prospect, who has a chance to crack the Opening Day roster. Bird, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge will be on the trip.
Phillies Up Next: Playing at home for the second straight day, the Phillies will host the Twins on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. at Spectrum Field on MLB.TV. Righty Aaron Nola (0-1, 6.75 ERA) seeks his first victory in his fifth start.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Ben Harris is an associate reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Philadelphia News & Search