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Fri 27/03/2015 - 15:04 EDT

Masahiro Tanaka To Start Season Opener For Yankees Vs. Blue Jays

The New York Yankees are bypassing former ace CC Sabathia and giving second-year pitcher Masahiro Tanaka the start in the team's season opener on April 6 at Yankee Stadium against AL East rival Toronto.

With all due respect to Sabathia, he is well past his prime and no longer a No. 1 starter. With the exception of Tanaka's last outing against the New York Mets, he has pitched well this spring, showing virtually no ill effects from the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament he suffered last July that cost him two months of his rookie season. Manager Joe Girardi said the choice of Tanaka to start the season opener was as much about protecting his health as it was a reward for his 13-5, 2.77 ERA season in 2014.

The way the early part of the schedule lays out, Tanaka -- who will make his final spring start on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins at Fort Myers -- will get an extra day's rest before the opener as well as an extra day before each of his next two starts due to off days in the schedule. He will also be on a pitch count for the opener, believed to be 90 pitches; he has not thrown more than 60 in a game so far this spring.  Tanaka is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in three spring starts. He also has 12 strikeouts to just one walk in 10 1/3 innings.

Tanaka started against Toronto in the team’s home opener last year. He’s 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA and 22 strikeouts in three starts versus the Jays. Michael Pineda will follow Tanaka, then Sabathia will face the Blue Jays on April 9 to close out the series. Nathan Eovaldi will be the Yankees' fourth starter and it is expected Adam Warren will be announced soon as the No. 5 starter.

"We feel that's the way it works the best," Girardi said of the rotation order. "We feel that gives everyone a chance to be pretty ready. Tanaka will be on a little bit of a pitch count the first time [through], not so much the second or third time."

The Blue Jays haven't announced their Opening Day  starter yet. It most likely would have been Marcus Stroman, who was terrific as a rookie last season. However, he tore his ACL early in spring training and will miss the 2015 season, a huge blow to a Toronto team that might have the best lineup in the American League but is shaky in the rotation. Thus it will either be veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle or right-handed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for the opener, which will be televised by ESPN.

The Jays will open the season without two regulars: left fielder Michael Saunders and second baseman Maicer Izturis as they will begin the season on the disabled list. Saunders will take the departed Melky Cabrera's spot in left. Saunders tore ligaments in his knee this spring and originally was feared out until July but he should only miss a week or two of the regular season. Ditto Izturis, who may or may not start at second when healthy.

Category : News

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