Joe Girardi Tabs Masahiro Tanaka as Yankees’ Opening Day Starter

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters earlier on Tuesday that he expects right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to be his Opening Day starter against the Tampa Bay Rays for 2017.

The Yankees didn’t name their Opening Day starter until March 31st last year due to complications about knowing what Tanaka’s availability for Opening Day would be. This will be the third straight Opening Day start for Tanaka, who had a career-year in 2016.

“Our plan is for him to be the Opening Day starter,” Girardi said, according to “You’ve got to see where he’s at, but I don’t really see him being not our Opening Day starter unless something was to arise that I wasn’t expecting. He’s been the guy that’s made the starts and that’s kind of our plan.”

Girardi and Tanaka are both happy about where they are at, as Tanaka feels that he is ahead of schedule this time of year. Bryan Hoch of is also reporting that Tanaka will speak to reporters after the Yankees’ workout tomorrow, so we will for sure then find out more about Tanaka’s health then.

The 28-year-old Tanaka was the most likely Opening Day starter on the Yankees roster, because after him, there is a lot of uncertainty. Michael Pineda is very inconsistent, and the 36-year-old CC Sabathia struggled at times during the season. Hoch lists Chance Adams, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Adam Warren, and Luis Severino as the most likely players to round out the final two rotation spots for New York.

We know what we will get from the Yankees offense with Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Brett Gardner, Chris Carter, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius all having roles on the team, but this will be a big year for Tanaka going forward.

After this season, Tanaka can opt-out of his contract with the Yankees, voiding the final years of his deal if he so chooses too. After this year, Tanaka will have earned $88 million of his $155 million he signed for on a seven-year contract when the Yankees successfully lured him away from Japan. Tanaka’s contract also contains a full no-trade clause.

Overall for the 2016 season, Tanaka went 14-4 with a 3.07 earned run average and 160 strikeouts over 199.2 innings of work.

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