Masahiro Tanaka came into this season with as much uncertainty as anyone on the Yankees. He did not pitch the same as his dominant self after his return from a torn UCL late last season, and struggled mightily in Spring Training. He also has said to expect a drop in his velocity.
Today, he pitched 4.0 innings, throwing 82 pitches. He gave up 5 runs (4 earned), 5 hits, and struck out 6. While those seem atrocious upon a first glance, he was not all that bad.
He was dominant over the first two innings, striking out 2 and getting 6 outs on his first 7 batters faced. The third inning is where it got ugly.
He gave up a hit and a walk, giving the Jays first and second with no outs. Jose Reyes then bunted, and a fielding miscue between Tanaka and third baseman Chase Headley led to a throwing error, scoring one. Tanaka then gave up a base hit scoring two more, and a two run blast by Edwin Encarnacion to give Toronto a 5-0 lead.
That was the only blemish for Tanaka. He struck out two more in the 4th, surrendering just one hit. Joe Girardi then replaced him to start the 5th.
A positive was that aside from the trying third inning, Tanaka was great. He gave up just two hits and walked one, striking out four in the other three innings. His shoddy 3rd inning was the only thing holding him back, and a lot of that had to do more so with poor placement of his pitches as opposed to just not having his stuff.
His pitches were consistently between 89-93 MPH, right around his velocity of 91.3 he had last season. As the season progresses, one would expect for his velocity to continue to improve with more seasoning.
Still, there are some clear concerns. His trying third inning came after most batters first time up. Did they figure out his stuff that quickly? His velocity was a bit down, and will it continue to drop as he continues to pitch? Their still are plenty of questions left unanswered.
Tanaka is expected to pitch again Sunday, April 12th against the Boston Red Sox.