NEW YORK -- All of that scouting of New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka might finally pay off for the Chicago Cubs. They didn't land him as their big free-agent signing over the winter, but at least they have detailed reports they can use in trying to beat him in Game 1 of their doubleheader Wednesday afternoon.
"His splitter is pretty good," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday morning. "You have to see the ball up on him."
That coincides with all the scouting reports on Tanaka since he became available from Japan in January. His fastball is hittable, but his splitter is not. If the Cubs get behind in the count, they're in trouble.
"I won't get behind," designated hitter Mike Olt joked. "You really look at the first two games. You can get everything you need from that. You want to see what's working for him lately."
Tanaka, 25, has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched this season, but he's given up about a hit an inning. And two home runs in two starts.
"He's pretty good," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Can work the fringes at times ... His split, when it's down, is pretty good. He can elevate his fastballs a little bit."
The Cubs haven't played since Sunday afternoon, so there might be some rust, but they did take some indoor batting practice on Tuesday and then went outdoors on Wednesday before the game. Now they'll face the player they tried to woo in a Los Angeles hotel just a few months ago. The Yankees beat everyone to the punch by adding a year -- and an extra $22 million -- to land Tanaka with a seven-year, $155 million contract to pitch on the biggest stage in baseball.
"I would lie if I said I never dreamed of playing in this stadium or the old one," Rizzo said. "My family was asking me what it was like just being here."
Rizzo also wants to remind everyone how good Game 1 starter Jason Hammel has been for the Cubs despite making approximately $16 million less than Tanaka this season. Hammel is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA. That's one more win and about a half-run less on his ERA than Tanaka after just two starts.
"He can just keep flying under the radar and winning ballgames for us," Rizzo said.