ANAHEIM -- Masahiro Tanaka pumped his fist and grinned when he hit a batting-practice home run earlier this week at Angel Stadium, clearing the center-field fence.
He will have his chance to prove his hitting prowess in a game situation on Thursday, when the Yankees begin a stretch of Interleague contests against the Brewers at Miller Park.
"I'm a little bit scared," Tanaka said through an interpreter, adding a laugh.
Tanaka said that he would rank his hitting ability "at the bottom" and, though he did bat a handful of times last season with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, there is no question that his main responsibilities will be on the mound.
"Obviously, I'm going to be in the batter's box," Tanaka said. "In certain situations like bunt situations, I want to be able to get that right, and that will obviously help me as far as winning the game, so I'm looking forward to it."
Tanaka said that he did not watch any video of Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, as he is "not anticipating to swing, for now." Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he saw video of Tanaka stroking a double last season, his only hit in six at-bats. Tanaka was 3-for-37 (.081) lifetime at the plate with Rakuten, dating back to 2007.
"He hit last year, so I'm hoping that helps him," Girardi said. "And he's not that far removed from high school, where some of our other guys are [that far removed]."
There is always a risk for injury when pitchers step to the plate and run the bases, something Girardi knows all too well; he was at the helm of the club in 2008 when Chien-Ming Wang's career took an unfortunate turn on the basepaths of Minute Maid Park in Houston.
"They haven't been swinging the whole year," Girardi said. "We've had them swinging for a month, maybe even a little bit more than that. If they're asked to bunt, I saw Javier Vazquez break his finger, and this is a guy that was a good bunter and a good hitter, so it can happen to anyone. You think the chances are maybe a little greater for someone that hasn't done it."
McCann looking for more consistent contact
ANAHEIM -- The defensive shifts that clog up the right side of the diamond during Brian McCann's at-bats are not going away anytime soon, a reality of this modern era of baseball that the Yankees' catcher has come to accept.
Instead of being frustrated by the situation, McCann is trying to adapt, and he acknowledged on Wednesday that he has consciously been trying to go the other way with pitches more often.
"I've been trying to work the ball to the whole field," McCann said. "The whole left side of the field is open. Maybe I'm trying to force it too much over there."
McCann was not in the Yankees' lineup on Wednesday, and entered the day hitless in his last 12 at-bats. He carried a .209 average and four homers and 12 RBIs into the series finale, and his .589 OPS ranked last among the 15 qualified Major League catchers.
"It's a give and take sometimes when you're hitting," McCann said. "Basically, I've got to get better. That's the bottom line. I've got to be more productive."
While the results haven't yet followed, McCann does not appear to be stubbornly insisting on hitting the ball into the shift, though he wouldn't mind lacing a few line drives through it in the near future.
McCann even attempted a bunt in the second inning of Monday's 4-1 Yankees loss at Angel Stadium, rolling a foul ball up the third-base line against Jered Weaver.
"We had a guy on first base and no outs," said McCann, who bounced into a fielder's choice later in the at-bat. "First and second and no outs looks pretty good."
While McCann would like to be known as a hitter who can go to the opposite field with regularity, he also believes that barreling some pitches up will help turn his numbers around quickly.
"If you're consistently backing balls up, the shift is going to take some hits away from you, but it shouldn't take two hits away from you a night," McCann said. "Better consistent contact is what I need to be doing."
Girardi mindful of overextending Robertson
ANAHEIM -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is reluctant to use closer David Robertson for more than three outs at this time.
The Yankees called on Shawn Kelley with two outs in the eighth inning in Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Angels; Kelley allowed a run-scoring single to Albert Pujols before the Yankees rallied to take a ninth-inning lead.
"I just feel more comfortable using [Robertson] for an inning right now," Girardi said. "I don't think he has any physical problems. It's just something I'm more comfortable doing."
Girardi said that he may relax those restrictions for Robertson later in the season, partially because he can envision using Robertson more frequently than when was the setup man to Mariano Rivera.
"As the closer, a lot of times you can get more than two days in a row," Girardi said. "If he feels good, I'd like to use him the third day. As much as you can, you try not to get caught without having your closer. It's a long year, and it's still really early. He had a couple weeks off, and I just have to make sure that he's built up right."
• John Ryan Murphy has caught all four of Vidal Nuno's starts this season. Girardi explained that Nuno's starts have lined up well with opposing left-handers; the Angels started southpaw Hector Santiago on Wednesday, and McCann had the night off.
"We're seeing so many left-handers," Girardi said. "If you're seeing a left-hander once a week, you'd pick that day to give Mac off. We're seeing a lot, so I just chose to keep those two together."
• Girardi said that the Yankees are revisiting the shift play that occurred in the third inning of Tuesday's game, when third baseman Yangervis Solarte was charged with a throwing error on a Collin Cowgill sacrifice. Because the infield was shifted, Mark Teixeira had trouble getting back to first base, and Brian Roberts was too far away to make the play.
"We're getting that worked out; I'll leave it at that," Girardi said.
• McCann said that there are no lingering hard feelings between him and Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez, against whom the Yankees will open a three-game series on Friday. The players were involved in a benches-clearing incident last Sept. 25, when McCann was with the Braves.
"I respect the guy, I respect the way he plays," McCann said. "He plays hard every single night. It's way, way over."