The success of the New York Yankees rests upon many different aspects of their team, one of the more important being the play of opening day starting pitcher and presumed ace, Masahiro Tanaka. With the 162 game MLB regular season just beginning, starting off 0-1 should be discouraging to no one, but there is no doubt the Yankees hoped for better.
Tanaka started Monday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays well, striking out two in the first inning and one in second, while keeping the Jays scoreless with only one hit. It was all down hill from there.
The third inning started off with a single, a walk and an error, putting the Yankees behind 1-0. Then, a single by former Yankee Russell Martin made it 3-0 as the wheels started coming off. Tanaka looked to limit the damage and was able to get the first out of the inning with a Jose Bautista fly out, but was ultimately unsuccessful as Edwin Encarnacion hit a 2-run homer putting the Jays up 5-0. Tanaka got the next two batters to ground out, but the damage was done.
Tanaka had a smooth fourth inning, giving up only one hit, but was relieved in the top of the 5th by Chris Martin. Overall, Tanaka lasted four innings while giving up 5 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 walks and striking out 6.
It seemed as if few people were talking about the actual game after the Jays officially won 6-1, but rather about Tanaka and whether or not he would be able to pitch the rest of the season. A ligament tear in his elbow has been bothering him and there is speculation that he will need Tommy John surgery eventually. When exactly that will be is up for debate.
The significance of the injury is that it makes it more difficult to throw his fastball, which the Jays were realizing early in the game, including center fielder Dalton Pompey.
“He wasn’t throwing hard,” said Pompey. “He was probably throwing 87-90. That’s more than hittable. It’s just when he moves the ball and keeps guys off-balance, that’s when he’s most effective.”
If a team is able to adjust and figure this out on opening day, there is not much hope for Tanaka being a successful starting pitcher this year, let alone being the ace for the Yankees’ staff. When the costs start to outweigh the benefits for a Yankee team that is already projected to miss the playoffs in a competitive AL East, perhaps it would be prudent for Tanaka to get the surgery sooner rather than later.
Tanaka was one of the few rays of hope on the Yankee roster this year and with his season now in doubt, Yankee fans may have to start lowering their expectations of getting into the playoffs.
To keep everything in perspective, however, it was only one start and Tanaka may bounce back from this poor outing next week. Yankee manager Joe Girardi seems to have faith in Tanaka’s style of a less powerful fastball.
“That’s kind of how he pitches,” Girardi said. “That’s how he had success last year. He’s not a guy who’s going to blow people away with his fastball.”
If Girardi believes in Tanaka, the pitcher will get a few more chances to prove himself before other actions are taken.
For now the Yankees want very much to put this game behind them and look forward to Wednedsay’s game. Michael Pineda will be starting with the opportunity to prove himself as the club’s ace after Tanaka’s poor performance. The Yankees wouldn’t have any problems with that right now as they are looking for anything positive at the beginning of this 2015 season.