"I've been there. I know that Tanaka is probably at 65 percent," said Martinez of Tanaka. "He might be better than a young kid rushed up from the Minor Leagues, but in the end, it's going to come back to bite them. I think Tanaka is not committed to his pitches. Tanaka is a guy who's aggressive in the strike zone and attacks the strike zone. He doesn't look like he's attacking the strike zone."
Tanaka has only made one start this season, and he gave up four earned runs in four innings of a loss to the Blue Jays on Opening Day. Martinez said it looked like Tanaka was leaving his breaking ball hanging at junctures of his season debut, and he said the starter doesn't look confident in his arsenal.
Martinez, to his credit, knows what that phenomenon looks like. The right-hander was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, notching a 219-100 record and a 2.93 ERA for his career. Martinez struggled with shoulder problems late in his career and ultimately had surgery that ended his 2007 season.
Martinez, prior to surgery, had tried to tough it out and pitch to the best of his ability while injured, and he said it appears that Tanaka is treading the same path. But in the long run, said Martinez, Tanaka may have to look out for himself. He's only 26 and may have a long career ahead of him.
It's one thing to be a team player, said Martinez, and another thing to sacrifice your arm.
"I felt the same way at a certain point in my career," said Martinez. "[Boston pitching coach] Joe Kerrigan used to say, 'At 75 percent, you're better than the average pitcher.' And you know what? I tried it, but it was so painful. It ended up messing up my confidence and it ended up reminding me every day that I'm in pain. And that's not easy to handle mentally. It doesn't matter how tough you are. When you know you can't spot the fastball the way you want to, when you know you can put a guy away with a curveball and you hang it, when you think you're going to throw a split and you're going to bury it and they bloop it, it's very uncomfortable. Because you know you have the right idea. You just can't execute it."
It's not the first time Martinez has weighed in about Tanaka's health, and the Yankees' right-hander was unfazed by the Hall of Famer's previous assessment.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.