Yankees encouraged by Tanaka's OD start

Righty runs out of steam in sixth, but demonstrates 'really good movement' after shaky spring

April 5th, 2016

NEW YORK -- Coming out of a spring in which the Yankees had to challenge Masahiro Tanaka to "dial it up" and stop protecting his surgically repaired elbow, they seemed to be pleased with the right-hander's Opening Day effort against the Astros.

Tanaka held Houston to a pair of runs and four hits over 5 2/3 innings, accepting a no-decision in the Yankees' 5-3 loss. Tanaka threw 87 pitches, serving up a Carlos Correa homer while walking one and striking out four.

"Overall, I felt that I pitched pretty well," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "As we got deeper into the game, I felt like I lost the strike zone a little bit, so that's probably why I had to leave the game."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to go to the bullpen with two outs in the sixth. Correa had tied the game with his homer to right-center, and Tanaka issued a walk to Colby Rasmus. Chasen Shreve escaped the inning, retiring Carlos Gomez on a grounder back to the mound.

"I thought [Tanaka] threw pretty well, I just thought he was kind of getting at the end of his rope," Girardi said. "He had to work somewhat hard, not too hard, and I made the change."

Tanaka said that he left a splitter up to Correa, and that both fatigue and the chilly weather may have played a factor. After serving up 25 homers last season, Tanaka said that avoiding the long ball is a priority.

"Yeah, I think that's important, to keep the home runs down," Tanaka said.

Tanaka is the first right-hander to start back-to-back openers for the Yankees since Roger Clemens (2001-03), and only the third foreign-born pitcher to start a Yankees opener, joining Chien-Ming Wang (2008) and Orlando Hernandez (2000).

Catcher Brian McCann offered a positive review of Tanaka's outing as a whole.

"I thought he threw the ball really well," McCann said. "He really had his sinker going today. Some really good movement, kept them off balance, pitched to both sides. I thought he threw the ball really well."

McCann said that he was not concerned by Tanaka's shaky spring, in which he produced a 7.36 ERA coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.

"I don't really get into all that," McCann said. "For today, I thought he threw the ball really well. Spring Training is Spring Training. You're trying to clear hurdles. You're just trying to get ready for this, and I feel like he executed really well."