NEW YORK – For the New York Yankees Opening Day starter Masahiro Tanaka the bone-chilling cold on the U.S. East Coast has helped him sharpen his focus rather than giving him the blues.
The 30-year-old, who earned the Opening Day nod for the fourth time in his past five seasons in New York, admitted to pregame butterflies after working out at Yankees Stadium on the eve of the season, but says that will not stop him from trying to break his Opening Day jinx.
“I’m feeling more nervous. Coming from warm Florida (spring training) to throw in the bullpen in single-digit temperatures in New York, I got the shivers,” said Tanaka, who with the Yankees took losses on the 2015 and 2017 Opening Days and got a no-decision in 2016.
“I want to show the fans on Opening Day I’ve grown considerably (since I made my last Opening Day start in 2017).”
The Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday in their 2019 home opener.
On Tuesday, Tanaka took part in a closed-door pitching session, and on Wednesday he pitched to a catcher standing in the outfield.
Tanaka started on Opening Day in three consecutive seasons from 2015, and the right-hander is 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in those starts.
When asked by reporters about his potential pitching strategies for the Orioles batting lineup, many members of which he is facing for the first time, Tanaka refused to comment, saying only “the opponents are going to find out,” and joking to a reporter “You’re lying (when you say you won’t tell).”
Hideo Nomo is the only other Japan-born pitcher to start three openers in the major leagues. He did so for Detroit in 2000 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 and 2004.