NEW YORK – Despite taking the phenomenal success he enjoyed in Japan to the majors this year, first-year Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is unlikely to pitch for the American League in this year’s MLB All-Star Game, New York manager Joe Girardi hinted on Friday.
Tanaka has a major league-best 11 wins in 15 starts and an AL-best 2.11 earned run average, but Girardi is keen to keep the 25-year-old newcomer from having to carry too much of the load. If Girardi doesn’t tinker with his rotation, Tanaka is likely to start July 13 against the Baltimore Orioles, and that would make him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game on July 15 in Minneapolis.
When asked why he didn’t start Tanaka a day earlier against the Boston Red Sox instead of Vidal Nuno, who entered the day with a 5.88 ERA, Girardi showed some frustration.
“I’ve answered this question 10 times. Tanaka is a guy who at most has thrown 226 innings,” Girardi said. “He’s on track to throw 226 innings. He’s used to pitching every seven days.
“If I start Tanaka today, he makes six starts in 30 days — every five days. Nobody does that. It’s physically too tough, so when you have a chance to give a guy an extra day of rest, you do.”
Girardi said he has been repeatedly asked whether 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda tired in the second half of the season last year, when his effectiveness dropped off. He said he has to balance the workload of all his starters, including a pair of pitchers with limited starting experience, rookie Chase Whitley and David Phelps.
“It’s about five guys,” Girardi said. “It’s not about Tanaka.
“I have to be careful. It’s a long season.”
Tanaka, who came to the Yankees having won his last 28 regular season decisions for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, has delivered 15 straight quality starts — a game of six or more innings with three earned runs or fewer. He finished his Eagles tenure with 34 straight regular season quality starts.
He will look to extend his streak on Saturday, when he makes his second start against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.