Yet this team has made it difficult with its blunders on defense, mistakes on the base paths and the poor hitting thus far. However, even after all that, one of the biggest topics that New York is going to face this year is the effectiveness of Masahiro Tanaka.
The Yankees signed Tanaka for $155 million for seven years. Last season, he suffered a partial tear of the UCL of his right elbow, and after his terrible first start of 2015 many have wondered why Tanaka didn’t just get Tommy John surgery since all the cool kids are doing it.
The Yankees have said that Tanaka is still working back and haven’t sounded the alarms just yet.
"This is not totally shocking," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters. "I think he's still in the process of building arm strength and everything. His arm strength is not far off. It's just locating it. It's some small things. We went slow with him in Spring Training."
Even though Sunday’s start against the Boston Red Sox will be just his second of this season, it will be telling. Tanaka’s velocity is down from last season, but he and Yankees manager have downplayed that angle. Tanaka told reporters after his last start that he plans to throw more off-speed pitches, so the numbers are going to show that his velocity is off.
However, those comments led Tanaka and Girardi to have a conversation this past week at just what Tanaka has planned, though neither would go into depth about their chat.
One thing that was noted was that Tanaka said he studied game film from his fateful home opener where he gave up four runs in four innings, and analyzed his mechanics. Tanaka tweaked them a bit, which should result in a better outcome.
As good as Toronto’s hitters are, the Boston Red Sox have a formidable lineup from top to bottom. They have veteran sluggers who can take the ball deep and fresh faces who don’t seem to show much fear regardless of who is pitching. The Red Sox will expose any flaws in Tanaka’s pitching.
The reality is we are all going to be watching Tanaka’s pitching tonight, analyzing every pitch, its speed, checking his facial expressions, seeing if he is wiggling his arm for signs of injury, and waiting on Pedro Martinez’s assessment. It doesn’t help that the game will be on ESPN, getting national attention for all to see if the Japanese hurler is back or if the collective baseball community is ready to send him back to Dr. James Andrews.