London Series preview: Yankees rotation

Excitement for the MLB London Series is growing. In a matter of days, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will face each other at the revamped Olympic Stadium in Stratford. We continue the Bat Flips and Nerds player previews by switching over the pitchers.


Masahiro Tanaka

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 190cm (6’ 3”)
  • Age: 30
  • Bats: Right-handed
  • From: Japan
  • 2019 salary: $22 million (signed a seven-year, $155 million deal for 2014-20)
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With the Yankees ace pitcher Luis Severino starting the season on the injured list, the honour of getting the ball on Opening Day was given to Masahiro Tanaka. This was his fourth straight Opening Day start, which is the record for the most ever made by a Japanese pitcher.

In fact, Tanaka likes his records. He was already the holder of three Guinness World Records when he inked the largest contract for an international free agent by signing a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees in 2014.

In the hierarchy of Yankees’ payroll, only Giancarlo Stanton earns more than Tanaka, although the right-hander still does not feature in the list of 2019’s top-10 earning pitchers.

He is not shy of splashing the cash, as shown by the chartering of his own Boeing 787 Dreamliner to fly him and his family (and the pet poodle) from Tokyo to New York.

Since moving stateside, the Japanese superstar has thrown over 900 innings covering nearly 150 starts with an ERA below 3.60. He has looked very good this season with 3.21 ERA and is expected to get the ball in the first game of the London Series.

No-one knows how the revamped Olympic Stadium will play, but if it is as homer-friendly as per the initial suggestions, fans should expect some souvenir home run balls. Few pitchers allow as many homers as Tanaka.


CC Sabathia

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 198cm (6’ 6”)
  • Age: 38
  • Bats: Left-handed
  • From: California, USA
  • 2019 salary: $8 million (signed a one-year deal for 2019. Retiring after this season)
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The former Cy Young Award winner and veteran of 19 seasons in the big leagues has announced that this will be his last. Surely, tossing a couple of innings in the first-ever MLB game held in Europe will be a fitting way to celebrate this remarkable career?

Since he debuted in 2001, Carsten Charles Sabathia Jr. has racked up 250 wins with more than 3,000 strikeouts. No-one else is even close. He leads all active players in career wins, career innings pitched and career strikeouts.

The left-hander was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 1998 draft. He is without a doubt the most successful player from the draft class that included J.D. Drew, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell.

Sabathia gave up a three-run homer in the first inning of his Major League debut for the Indians in 2001, but it was nothing more than a blip, and he finished the season second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind a certain Mr Ichiro Suzuki.

The six-time All-Star picked up the Cy Young award in his final full season in Cleveland in 2007. He led the league with 241 innings covering 34 starts and an ERA of 3.21.

The following season, splitting his time between the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, Sabathia tossed a heavyweight allowance of 253 innings. No-one in the 10 years since has pitched as many in a season.

As a free agent in 2009, the left-handed signed a record-breaking, seven-year, $161 million deal to anchor the Yankees rotation. In pinstripes, Sabathia has made six Opening Day starts and tallied over 1,800 innings.

During his preparations for the publicity trip to the UK to promote the London Series last December, Sabathia experienced chest pains and underwent heart surgery. The coronary angioplasty didn’t slow the veteran down, and he has already made 12 starts this season.


J.A. Happ

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 196cm (6’ 5”)
  • Age: 36
  • Bats: Left-handed
  • From: Illinois, USA
  • 2019 salary: $17 million (signed a two-year, $34 million deal for 2019-20)
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James Anthony Happ pitched fantastically well with a 2.84 ERA while in pinstripes last season after moving from the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. It was an easy decision for the Yankees to resigned J. A (it’s pronounced “Jay”) to a two-year, $34 million deal during the offseason to solidify their rotation

The Yankees are the veteran’s sixth club. He was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round of the 2004 draft; the same draft that the Red Sox took Dustin Pedroia.

Happ also played for the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates, although it was as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays rotation that he made nearly half of his 1,600 career innings.

It’s tough for a flyball pitcher like Happ to survive in this era of a record number of home runs, but he is a canny veteran who is evolving to survive.

Last season, the Red Sox were the best team in the league against right-handed starters but surprisingly in the bottom half when it came to facing lefties.

It is looking less likely that Happ will get the ball in London for the Sunday game as he was shelled in his last start, allowing eight earned runs on 11 hits against the Astros.


James Paxton

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 193cm (6’ 4”)
  • Age: 30
  • Bats: Left-handed
  • From: Canada
  • 2019 salary: $8.5 million (one final year of arbitration left in 2020)
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When healthy, James Paxton is one of the best starting pitchers in the league. His three-pronged attack of fastball, curve and cutter causes both left and right-handers problems. Unfortunately, for baseball fans, the Canadian has never pitched more than 165 innings in a season and has already missed a stretch this year with a knee problem.

The left-hander made over 100 starts for the Seattle Mariners, including the first-ever no-hitter by a Canadian pitcher in Canada when he took just 99 pitches to secure victory over the Blue Jays last season.

Paxton also created non-playing headlines with the impressive way he hardly flinched when a huge bald eagle landed on him during the national anthem.

The 30-year-old has a career ERA below 3.40 and is currently striking out batters at an exceptional rate of over 12.0 SO/9, but perhaps his greatest claim to fame is as the only pitcher ever to have struck out Mike Trout four times in one game.

If he can stay healthy for the rest of the year, this could be the best season of Big Maple’s Major League career.


Domingo Germán

  • Team: New York Yankees
  • Height: 188cm (6’ 2”)
  • Age: 26
  • Bats: Right-handed
  • From: Dominican Republic
  • 2019 salary: $0.57 million (pre-arbitration eligible)
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When the Yankees lost their ace, Luis Severino, before the season started, they needed someone to step up and make those starts. Domingo Germán was the man. He has already made 11 starts and, at times, the 26-year-old has looked like the best starter in the rotation.

Props must be given to the Yankees scouts for insisting that Germán, an unknown Single-A pitcher at the time, was a throw-in included in the deal which sent their everyday second baseman Martin Prado to the Miami Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi. This was during the time when the team from Florida were following through on their promise to field a contending lineup after signing Giancarlo Stanton to his gigantic contract.

In his first 10 starts this season, Germán went 9-1 with 2.60 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. The 26-year-old was leading the AL with wins and admirably filling the void left by Severino’s injury until he landed on the injured list himself.

The Yankees were hopeful that a cortisone shot for Germán’s strained hip flexor would keep his stay on the IL brief, but now the timetable for return is less clear.

There is a chance that the Yankees will use an opener in the second game. On Tuesday, they employed  Chad Green for the first inning and then Nestor Cortes Jr. for the next four.


The latest news on Severino is that he has now enjoyed several pain-free weeks and is still hopeful of returning shortly after All-Star break.

Watch out for the rest of our player profiles and make sure you follow @BatFlips_Nerds on Twitter to keep up-to-date with all of the latest London Series news

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