ARLINGTON -- Since the moment that the Yankees popped corks to celebrate their first goal of securing the American League East title, manager Aaron Boone has used the remaining games on the schedule as something of a laboratory, experimenting with various permutations of how the club might want to deploy the roster in October.
That was why Masahiro Tanaka emerged from the bullpen for the first time in his big league career in the regular-season finale Sunday, when the final game at Globe Life Park was logged in the books as a 6-1 Rangers victory. The Yankees are considering using an opener in the upcoming American League Division Series against the Twins.
"I'd be absolutely confident going into a game like that," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Obviously having gone through today and getting the experience doing this today is going to help me. I feel OK going into the game like that."
Tanaka could either make a traditional start or pitch behind an opener, which would almost certainly be Chad Green. In Sunday's contest, Green opened and permitted an unearned run in the first inning, yielding to Tanaka, who allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over three innings.
"I thought he was all right," Boone said. "I thought the split was pretty good today. He wasn't throwing as hard today with all his pitches -- fastball, slider and split. I think he was pitching a little bit and working on some things, so I thought it was a good tuneup for him as he gets ready to head to the postseason."
Ronald Guzmán stroked a two-run single in the fifth off Tommy Kahnle as the Rangers pulled away, preparing to move across the street to their new stadium.
Aaron Judge's third-inning homer -- the last dinger hit at Globe Life Park -- marked the Yanks' only damage against Lance Lynn, who struck out 10 and permitted two hits in 7 1/3 innings. New York ended the year with 306 home runs, one shy of the Twins' 307.
"It's a record that's going to be broken next year, and the following year it's going to get broken again," said Judge, who ended the season with 27 homers, matching his 2018 total.
Long time coming
Though Sunday marked Tanaka's first regular-season relief appearance after 163 big league starts, he made three relief appearances while playing for Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.
Tanaka also made seven relief appearances across the 2009 and '13 World Baseball Classics, and he came out of the bullpen in this year's All-Star Game, picking up the win for the AL.
"It's nothing new to me; no problem at all," Tanaka said. "I had no difficulties going into the game. ... I had the opportunity to go in in the second inning in the All-Star Game. It was a pretty similar routine, going into the game from that."
Good to go
No team was challenged to handle more injuries this year than the Yankees, and that continued into Game 162, when third baseman Gio Urshela sustained a mild left ankle sprain while fielding Nick Solak's fourth-inning groundout.
Urshela was seen by doctors at Globe Life Park and no tests are scheduled. Urshela said he should have no difficulty being ready for the ALDS.
"I will be there on Friday night," Urshela said. "They've got a pretty good team. It's going to be a good series."
Gary Sánchez caught six innings and went 1-for-3 in his second game since returning from a left groin strain. The Yankees catcher said he will log more simulated at-bats this week in New York, expecting to be ready to catch nine innings in Game 1 of the ALDS.
"I definitely felt better today," Sánchez said through an interpreter. "I hit a couple foul balls and eventually a single. It's a matter of keep working and I believe I can get better."
The Yankees completed the regular season with 103 victories, their highest win total since the 2009 World Series champions posted the same number.
"We have a great team here," Sánchez said. "We feel we can compete with anybody."