Being one of the main pitchers that called out MLB's baseball last season, it makes sense that Masahiro Tanaka was asked about how it felt a year later.
According to Newsday's David Lennon, Tanaka said that the ball felt just like it did last spring training following his first start on Wednesday, which is a good sign. However, there's a catch.
Tanaka said that he noticed a difference in the baseballs once the regular season began. So, if MLB did change the ball once again after the complaints last season, we might not find out until Opening Day.
There was massive controversy about MLB using juiced balls last season, with seams being much lower and the ball feeling more slippery for pitchers trying to work their arsenal on the mound. Players like Tanaka that rely on a splitter as their out pitch, or Noah Syndergaard with his slider, struggled all season to figure out consistency with those pitches. Justin Verlander went as far as to say the baseballs were "a f---ing joke."
Back in July 2019 was when Tanaka told NJ.com's Brendan Kuty that the ball "just doesn't feel right." He said "the ball is a little bit harder and it feels like the seams are a little bit lower." Seams are already low to begin with on a major league ball, so gripping certain pitches was hard.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred discussed the situation last season, where he said "Baseball has done nothing, given no direction, for an altercation of the ball." Many believed MLB wanted to increase the amount of home runs and overall run production in general to make games more fun to watch.
"The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs," Manfred explained. "If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment of owners for whom I work. There's no desire among ownership to increase homers in the game -- to the contrary they are concerned about how many we have."
At the time of Tanaka's comments, MLB had already seen 3,691 homers heading into the All-Star break after there were 5,585 homers total in the 2018 season.
Hearing from someone affected by the different balls say they felt better in spring training is a good sign, but we really can't know for sure if it will stay that way until March 26 when the regular season opens.
Tanaka, among many others, will hope the results are different than last year.