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Yanks believe Tanaka can get back on track

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Some 40 minutes after Aaron Judge swung through Craig Kimbrel's 99-mph heater, marking the conclusion of the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, pitching coach Larry Rothschild was among those huddled in a late-night meeting behind closed doors.

The topic of conversation almost certainly concerned what to try next with Masahiro Tanaka, who has now lost five consecutive starts. Tanaka surrendered three homers and generated just three swings and misses with 62 pitches, but as of now, they still believe that the right-hander will snap out of the worst funk of his career.

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NEW YORK -- Some 40 minutes after Aaron Judge swung through Craig Kimbrel's 99-mph heater, marking the conclusion of the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, pitching coach Larry Rothschild was among those huddled in a late-night meeting behind closed doors.

The topic of conversation almost certainly concerned what to try next with Masahiro Tanaka, who has now lost five consecutive starts. Tanaka surrendered three homers and generated just three swings and misses with 62 pitches, but as of now, they still believe that the right-hander will snap out of the worst funk of his career.

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"We haven't had a chance to discuss anything, but this guy's been the ace of our staff the last three years," manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't think you just forget how to pitch. For him, it's been inconsistent stuff that's really killed him. We've got to find a way to get him back on track."

Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs off Tanaka in the fourth inning and Andrew Benintendi added a solo shot in the fifth. Moreland mashed a flat slider into the right-field bleachers, Ramirez jumped on a splitter that stayed up and Benintendi cracked a two-seamer.

"I have been inconsistent. Obviously I'm trying to fix that," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "As for today, I think I made some good pitches and bad pitches in the game. The bad ones, I think I missed. They were crucial mistakes and they went right down the middle. Definitely, I need to fix that.

"Also, I think you want to go out there and try to do so well that maybe there's an element of pressing too hard."

Over his last five starts, Tanaka has permitted 27 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings (10.72 ERA), serving up 11 homers. Outings like his April 27 shutout at Fenway Park have become more of an aberration than the norm.

"He knows what he needs to do," Girardi said. "I don't think you just forget how to throw a pitch."

The Yanks' choices are limited, considering they say that there is no evidence of an injury. Girardi said that Tanaka's velocity is fine, he has snapped off good sliders and splitters at times, and he has not come into the training room seeking extra treatment.

"I really believe that you could take 12 New York Yankee pitchers and 12 Boston Red Sox pitchers and if you MRIed all of them, you'd probably find a little something and say, 'Oh! That's it!'" Girardi said. "You can't do that. Everyone has little issues that they deal with. There's nothing that leads us to believe he's hurt. There's no signs."

Girardi acknowledged that skipping Tanaka in the rotation is "something we could talk about." Chad Green retired all 10 Red Sox he faced on Tuesday, but Girardi said that Green is no longer built up; his season high in pitches is 48. One option could be Chance Adams, who pitched well again on Tuesday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"That's up to the manager," Tanaka said. "I'll just keep on working, try to move forward and just keep on working on what I need to do."

Otherwise, they will continue hoping that Tanaka can replicate more outings like the 13 strikeouts on May 26 vs. Oakland, and fewer like Tuesday's.

"It's tough mentally," Tanaka said. "I can't give up on myself. I've got to believe in myself that I'll be able to get over this bump."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka