• Kyodo


Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will start for the New York Yankees on Opening Day for the second year in a row, manager Joe Girardi announced Thursday.

The 27-year-old Tanaka will be just the second Japanese pitcher to start on Opening Day for two straight years in the majors, following Hideo Nomo in 2003 and 2004.

“If you want to compare me to what Nomo-san accomplished, I don’t think I’ve done enough to be mentioned with him,” Tanaka said. “It’s humbling if one says that nobody’s done something since Nomo-san.”

Girardi said Tanaka, who underwent elbow surgery last October, will take the ball next Monday against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium, where he started the Yankees’ final game last autumn in New York’s playoff loss to Houston.

In his Opening Day debut last season, Tanaka yielded five runs in four innings, taking the loss in a 6-1 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I am filled more with a sense of responsibility to be in this big position than with being happy, since this is my second time,” Tanaka said. “With my starting date fixed, I will concentrate 100 percent on preparing thoroughly.

“The manager and pitching coach called me and said, ‘It’s Opening Day. Are you ready?’, so I said, I’m fine.’ “

Tanaka was 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 24 starts last season before going under the knife. He was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in his big league debut season of 2014.

He is said to have since recovered steadily. He threw in a total of 11 innings in four preseason games this year with a 7.36 ERA.

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