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Tanaka strikes out nine in simulated game

03/11/2014 11:50 AM ET
By The Associated Press

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka walks on the field during the second inning of New York's spring game against the Phillies.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka made his third start for the New York Yankees, this time in a simulated game.

Tanaka, who signed a $155 million, seven-year contract in January, struck out nine of 18 batters he faced in four innings Tuesday. He gave up three hits, including a solo homer, to a pair of minor leaguers.

"I felt that I was able to do what I wanted to do today," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Given that my split-finger wasn't that good my last outing, I worked a lot on that today."

Tanaka, who at one point threw 16 consecutive strikes, finished with 49 strikes during a 63-pitch outing.

Tanaka has allowed one run, four hits and struck out four over five innings in two spring training games. He is expected to start in the Yankees third or fourth regular-season game.

This marked the first time Tanaka pitched in the Yankees simulated game format, which uses only a pitcher, catcher and hitter.

The righthander, 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year while leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title, is scheduled to pitch Sunday against Atlanta.

Tanaka said the simulated games he pitched during spring training in Japan used an intrasquad game setup.

"Obviously, it's part of practicing," Tanaka said. "You're throwing against your own people. Some of the adjustments that I was able to make today, I just want to see if I can do that in a real game."

Jake Cave hit the homer off Tanaka, while Cito Culver had two singles.

"It was fun. It was cool," Cave said. "I guessed right on one of the pitches."

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