McCann on Tanaka: 'As good as advertised'

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Yankees had their organizational meetings, among their top free-agent goals was teaming Masahiro Tanaka with Brian McCann.

On Thursday, when Tanaka starts for the first time as a Yankee, the battery will be working together. McCann, after just one bullpen session catching Tanaka, thinks Tanaka is worthy of the hype.

"Before you saw him pitch, you heard what he has and what people say about him," McCann said. "Then you get to catch him and it is as good as advertised. His stuff really is electric. He can command both sides of the plate to both righties and lefties. He can change speeds. He has five or six different pitches. Everything that you read about, the highlights that we saw before he came over here, they are all accurate."

Tanaka actually has seven total pitches, although he doesn't throw the change often. For his part, Tanaka is excited to start because with the Phillies playing at home in Clearwater, he figures to go up against top-flight talent.

"I'll be able to face some of the better, or some of the first-string batters," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I’d like to go up there and see how I can pitch against those batters."

In his first outing, Tanaka entered in relief in the fifth inning against the Phillies, so he didn't get to face their top hitters. He did impress those he did face, however.

Tanaka and McCann will familiarize themselves with each other Thursday as Tanaka is expected to go three innings. McCann said the process of learning any new starter takes some time.

"It can't be forced," McCann said. "It has to come over time."

THROW THE FLAG: On Thursday, Girardi will be able to test out the new replay rule. He said he might just try it out even if he doesn't really believe a call should be overturned.

NOTES: The Yankees didn't send many starters to Port Charlotte and ended up losing 5-4 to the Rays. Adam Warren, vying for the fifth spot, threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing a run on four hits. Joe Girardi said that Warren made "progress" because he is throwing more strikes. ... Dellin Betances, who is trying to win a bullpen spot, threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings.