Tanaka draws a crowd, throws with Cervelli

Masahiro Tanaka threw 23 pitches in a bullpen session Thursday. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

TAMPA -- It was the Derek Jeter Watch, but suddenly half of the media disappeared. With pitchers and catchers not due to report until Friday, some players worked out at the minor league facility. Jeter was among them.

But a portion of the media on hand took off before Jeter's Mercedes pulled into the parking lot. They were dashing to see Masahiro Tanaka.

If there is anyone who could be the successor to Jeter as the next face of the Yankees' franchise, it may be Tanaka. He has never played for another major league team, is young and comes with the spotlight of a $155 million contract.

The only question is: Can he pitch? Well, he got on a mound for the first time as a Yankee, throwing 23 pitches at what his catcher, Francisco Cervelli, described as "60 percent."

As Cervelli correctly pointed out, you can't tell anything from a bullpen. Still, he is excited to see what's ahead.

"When you see those kinds of numbers, that is ridiculous," Cervelli said. "24-0, that is ridiculous. A 1-point something [ERA]? We know this is the big leagues. They all come and show what kind of pitcher they are. Every time we face [Yu] Darvish, it is hard to hit that guy. I think hitters say the same thing about [Hiroki] Kuroda. It is going to be fun. I hope he wins more than 20."

The thing is, no one is going to know about Tanaka until about June. Spring training will let everyone examine what type of stuff he has, but not how it will play in the season.

By June, when he has 10 or more starts under his belt, we will have a better idea of what type of pitcher Tanaka might be. But we know one thing for sure already -- he can draw a crowd.