If the Philadelphia Phillies had one discernible strategy in the offseason, it was to go cheap.
The organization counted its pennies with every signing, even negotiating $12 million off a contract it signed with Cuba free agent pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and citing a health concern as the reason. Gonzalez got his into his first major league action, and it was fitting that it came in a Saturday game against the other big international pitching sensation, Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.
It’s the smallest of samples, but if the Phillies can take anything from that 4-0 defeat to the Yankees, it is that you get what you pay for. Gonzalez threw 51 pitches in all over 1.2 innings, and just 26 of those 51 were strikes. He gave up two hits, a run (earned), struck out two and walked four.
Tanaka, the Yankees’ $155 million pitcher who the Phillies briefly flirted with, threw two scoreless innings, struck out three and walked none. It was an international “Friendly” as they say in soccer, but the Yankees’ 24-year-old clearly outdid the Phillies’ 27-year-old.
If rust were the only concern the Phillies had about Gonzalez, it would be one thing; but the velocity of his fastball also raised some eyebrows and not in a good way. When the Phillies signed him, they said the scouts said his fastball was in the 93-97 mph range. On Saturday, it topped out between 91 to 93 in the first inning and then fell to under 90 in the second.
On the other hand, Tanaka handled Phillies hitters like he was in midseason form, showing a split-fingered fastball that started out in the zone at the belt and dipped below the ankles by the time it got to the catcher’s mitt. He pitched two scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none.
One international pitcher appeared ready; one did not, probably prompting a large segment of Phillies’ fans to ask, “why could they have not used that windfall money from the recently-signed TV contract to outbid the Yankees just this one time?”