Frank Thomas thinks velocity will be the key to Masahiro Tanaka’s success this year

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Frank Thomas and Dontrelle Willis join Kevin Burkhardt to discuss what to expect from Masahiro Tanaka this season.

- Masahiro Tanaka. He was simply superb in the playoffs last year, but you forget, he had a-- he had a rough regular season. He had a terrible May, and his regular season was up and down. So I'm curious, you know, Dontrelle, his importance to the Yankees, we keep talking about how great their lineup is. What about Tanaka?

- Well, he's the veteran behind Severino to take pressure off that, and this rotation, everyone's been hurt. So health is wealth in that rotation. I think that's the Achilles heel of this ball club, especially if they hurt themselves.

Now, he needs to learn to be able to live low and live long, especially with that split finger. He did a great job of changing eye level in the day, but the injuries could take a toll, and now you don't want him to have a stress fracture or anything like that on his elbow, because he's had some miscues on that elbow. So that's a worry. But for me, I want to see him get early contact, get early outs so he can go deeper in the ballgame and take less strain off his elbow.

- And I think he needs to be the guy we saw the end of the second half of the Yankees last year and into the playoff. He was dominant. He had life on his fastball. The key with him is his velocity on his fastball. If he's throwing mid 90s, 92, 93, 94--

DONTRELLE WILLIS: I saw a couple 94's today.

- He's going to get a lot of outs. This guy knows how to pitch. Definition of professional big league pitcher.

- Uh, yeah. I would agree with you on that. Six innings today, eight strikeouts, only one run allowed. You know, just a sidebar, you know, Blue Jays to me, they could-- they're a team that can go either way. But you forget how good Aaron Sanchez is trained, watching him pitch tonight. I know he gave it up there [INAUDIBLE], you know, had to leave the game, but his stuff is wicked.

- You want to see the reps from him. He's gone through some injuries, but again, when you see the natural ability, you saw the sinker at 95 to 96, down in the zone. He has that wuper-duper and that wipe-out slider too. I love this tempo, but he ran out of gas. But as he gets stronger and he gets older, he'll start to learn how to pitch to contact.

And like I said for Tanaka, get early contact and get outs. I think a lot of pitchers now they want to strike everybody out, but the pitch counts starts to rise and you see a lot of guy's pitch counts get to 100 early in the ball game. They need to learn how to start a game if they want to finish the game.

- Well, they've groomed this guy to be their ace. The key for him is strike one. When he's ahead of the count, he's vicious. You saw that sinker down and then plowing the right handers. He can-- he can control the ball game but he's got to work ahead in the count.

KEVIN BURKHARDT: One last note, there is some concern for the Blue Jays. Josh Donaldson DHing today. He had some really weird throwing issues considering he's an excellent defensive player. They're calling it a dead arm, but that would concern me if I'm the Blue Jays is that DH and we'll see. I don't like the we'll see.

- Not at all. That concerns his agent more. He's a free agent this year.

- [LAUGHS]

- I would agree. He's just too good. We've got to see him play.

- You might want to start talking about negotiating again.

- Great player, that's right, he's a great player.

- Right about now.