MLB notes: Yankees' Tanaka strikes out nine in simulated game

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws a pitch during the first inning...

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field on Mar 6, 2014 in Clearwater, FL, USA. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Sun Wire Services

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka pitched in a simulated game Tuesday, giving up a home run and striking out nine in four innings.

The Japanese pitching sensation said he was encouraged by his ability to use his curve ball for first-pitch strikes.

Tanaka threw 63 pitches, 49 for strikes, while pitching coach Larry Rothschild and special assistant Trey Hillman watched from behind a screen. Tanaka faced 18 simulated hitters, giving up three hits to a pair of minor leaguers. At one point, he threw 16 consecutive strikes.

Minor league left-hander Jake Cave hit a home run to left field on a chest-high inside fastball. Minor leaguer Cito Culver had two singles.

Tanaka, 25, said he did his best to make the simulated game feel like true competition.

"I took it as part of practice and just wanted to go out there and work on some of the stuff I wanted to work on," he said through his translator. "Mainly the splitter and also the location of the fastballs. And I felt that I was able to get some first strikes from my curve ball. So that was one of the good parts of today's simulated game."

In five innings of spring training games, Tanaka has given up one run and four hits while striking out four and walking none.

The right-hander, who was 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 the Atlanta Braves.

Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January.

NO TIMETABLE FOR HAMELS

Less than three weeks before season begins, the Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 Opening Day starter has yet to pitch to hitters in 2014.

Cole Hamels entered camp last month saying he was eight to 10 days behind the rest of the pitchers in camp following a bout with biceps tendinitis in November.

However, the left-hander's progress was slowed during the first week of March when he suffered a setback in his throwing program. Hamels, originally on tap to face hitters in a live batting practice session March 6, said he felt fatigued after his March 1 bullpen session. It was just the second time he threw off the mound this spring.

"I believe I threw 35 pitches," Hamels said. "To my body, it felt like a thousand."

Although Hamels didn't feel strong enough to face hitters during the first week of March, it may have been a minor blip on his road to rejoining the rotation at some point in April. Hamels is scheduled to throw a bullpen session March 12 in Clearwater.

There remains at least an outside chance that Hamels will work his way into a Grapefruit League game if he progresses without another setback. Still, the 30-year-old left-hander cannot put a timetable on his eventual return.

TOMMY JOHN FOR MEDLEN?

With right-hander Kris Medlen potentially headed to a second Tommy John surgery, the Atlanta Braves are scrambling to fill their rotation.

Medlen, projected as the Opening Day pitcher and staff leader, left the mound in obvious discomfort after throwing a pitch in the fourth inning of his third spring start March 9, and an MRI the next day revealed a ligament injury.

The right-hander was to be examined further, and he likely will see Dr. James Andrews, who performed his elbow reconstruction surgery in 2010.

"The MRI does show some involvement with the ligament," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We don't know the extent yet. He's going to have continued tests, and he's probably going to have a second opinion, so for us to put a complete diagnosis on it now would be premature."

The loss of Medlen for the season would be a major blow to a rotation already without right-hander Tim Hudson, who signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants, and beset by other uncertainties.

Right-hander Brandon Beachy, coming off 2012 Tommy John surgery, had an elbow cleanup procedure last September, and he has battled arm tightness this spring. He cut his third spring start short after two innings March 10, and he will miss his next scheduled outing.

In addition, left-hander Mike Minor has not pitched in a spring game yet after experiencing shoulder discomfort early in camp.

SANTANA CLOSE TO DECISION

Free-agent righthander Ervin Santana will decide his destination for 2014 in the next day or two, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are in the hunt for the veteran starter but the Atlanta Braves could now be in the chase for his services. The Braves' rotation has been hit hard by injuries in spring training.

Santana is expected to sign a one-year contract when he does decide. He was originally looking for a contract worth upwards of $100 million but lowered his demands in recent weeks.

Pitching for the Kansas City Royals last season, Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 earned-run average and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings.

ANGELS RELEASE MULDER

The Anaheim Angels have released one-time star pitcher Mark Mulder Tuesday.

Mulder, who was attempting a comeback with the Angels, tore an Achilles tendon in training camp and will need the entire season to recover. He hasn't ruled out trying to make a MLB team again next spring.

The last time Mulder pitched in the major leagues was in 2008.


Photos