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Tanaka adjusting well to life in the majors

Righty looking to tie MLB record with 16th straight quality start Saturday
06/28/2014 10:32 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Masahiro Tanaka is one quality start away from tying a major-league record for most consecutive quality starts to begin a career.(AP)
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka will get his second crack at the Red Sox on Saturday, although, as of late talk has been more centered on the fact that he's pitching Saturday -- because of the Yankees' choice to stay on rotation after Thursday's off day and start Vidal Nuno on Friday -- than anything else.

It's been noted by Yankees manager Joe Girardi that he wants to give Tanaka an extra day of rest anywhere he can this season, but the skipper did defend his decision for the umpteenth time Friday, stating that staying on rotation in this case is more about the rotation quintet as a whole than just Tanaka.

"(Chase) Whitley is a guy who has made 20 career starts and never pitched more than 95 innings, (David) Phelps hasn't been a starter his whole career, and I've been asked numerous times if I thought Hiroki (Kuroda) got tired last year," Girardi said, "so it's about five guys, not just one. If I moved Tanaka up to (Friday), he makes six starts in 30 days -- name me one starter who does that? We don't play more than 20 or 21 in a row, so nobody does, because it's too physically taxing. I have to be careful, because it's a long season, and you want to give guys an extra day when you can."

So far, whatever Girardi has done has been working. Through his first 15 starts, Tanaka is 11-2 with an American League-leading 2.11 ERA, and he's a quality start Saturday away from tying the major-league record for most consecutive quality starts to begin a career.

So much for an adjustment period.

"He was pretty adjusted to Japanese routines -- when you go 24-0 I think you're well-adjusted -- but he's been great so far," Girardi laughed. "When we've had a chance to give our guys an extra day, we've taken it, but he's adjusted well."

Three months ago, the biggest question fans had about Tanaka was whether he could indeed adjust to pitching every five days, and now that question has become a facetious one wondering if he can go every day.

It's a fun thought for sure, especially given the in-game workload Japanese pitchers tend to have, but for Girardi, the battle with Tanaka also includes trying to manage that pitch count, too. Whether it's Tanaka or anyone else, the skipper knows it would be dangerous if he tried to instill an NPB-like single-game workload unless absolutely necessary.

"Are there times where if he was on a seven-day rotation, you maybe would've pushed him more? Absolutely, because he's used to throwing more pitches, but he also is used to having more rest too," Girardi said of Tanaka. "I don't know if (MLB) would be better off on a seven-day rotation, but I do think that adjusting to the pitch counts and the routines they have in Japan would be dangerous in a five-man rotation. I think you'd see a lot of inconsistency. Someone would throw 145 pitches, and then in their next start they're probably going to be fatigued and their stuff won't be as sharp, so they may only last 70."

No matter what, Tanaka's start in this Red Sox series was going to be one of four more he made before the All-Star break. As it stands, he's lined up so that the final one will be the Sunday before the break -- and as a sidebar to his earlier explanations, Girardi warned that just because Tanaka will have "full" rest over said break, don't necessarily look for him to be the starter on July 19 against Cincinnati.

"I would guess that if he pitches Sunday (before the break) he won't be pitching Friday (after)."

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