video thumbnail

LAA@NYY: Tanaka strikes out 11 over 6 1/3 frames

Two rookies square off in Saturday afternoon's Rays-Yankees contest at Yankee Stadium.

But whereas Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi truly is a rookie, the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka has rookie status but is far from being one.

Tanaka had an accomplished career in Japan prior to his acquisition by the Yankees, and thus far the right-hander has lived up to the high expectations. After five starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA, and his 46 strikeouts are a record for a Yankees pitcher through his first five career starts.

Tanaka, who will be facing the Rays for the first time, was asked if he anticipates his job getting more difficult as Major League teams see him more.

"That's something that I don't worry about at all," said Tanaka through a translator. "Back in Japan there's only five teams that I faced, so basically you're facing the same guys over and over again. So you adjust according to how they adjust. Basically, right now, my head is not there. I'm not worried about that."

Given Tanaka's in-game adjustments, it's unlikely that familiarity will breed more success for opposing teams.

"I think [making those adjustments] just comes with experience," Tanaka said. "Since becoming a pro, I've pitched over 1,000 innings, and obviously, Day 1 up to now, I feel that I'm able to adjust myself way better in the games compared to the times in, say my first year and second year."

Despite his results, Tanaka is not comfortable being called the Yankees' ace, nor is he satisfied with how he's pitched.

"I've given up runs, particularly early in the game," he said. "That part kind of bothers me. There are other parts as well. But that's one thing that has bothered me."

Meanwhile, Odorizzi is looking to find the magic he had while compiling a quality Minor League resume that has yet to translate to the Majors.

Odorizzi had four stints with the Rays in 2013 before making the rotation this spring, and he is 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in five starts. Most of his problems have come after the opposition's first turn through the lineup. Opponents are hitting only .171 against him the first time through; after that, opponents have hit .444 the second time through and .471 the third.

"It's probably the most difficult stretch of my career, honestly. I've never had this kind of struggle in this many starts in a row," Odorizzi said. "This kind of [stinks] being at the highest level doing it and not doing well. But I'm going to work past it.

"Hopefully, this next start will be a springboard to the next chapter of the season. April's behind us, the whole team, and I couldn't be happier for it to go. It's just like hitting the reset button and getting past it."

Odorizzi has one career appearance against the Yankees, on Sept. 24, when he pitched three scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium to record his first Major League save and first career save since he pitched for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2010.

Rays: S-Rod strong
Sean Rodriguez hit his team-leading fourth home run Thursday night and had a career-high three extra-base hits (two doubles and the homer). Seven of his eight hits this season have gone for extra bases.

Rodriguez did not hit his fourth home run last season until Sept. 15, at Minnesota.

He gives a lot of credit to the coaching staff -- in particular, hitting coach Derek Shelton -- for keeping him sharp when he's not in the lineup. He noted that a hitter can do all sorts of things to stay ready, but Major League game pitching can't be simulated.

Yankees: Getting to know Tanaka
Even manager Joe Girardi is still learning about his star right-hander.

When asked what he's learned about him so far, Girardi replied, "I think, probably, the biggest thing we've learned about Tanaka is, he's going to find a way to get it done. No matter what his stuff is that day or what he goes through early that day, he's going to find a way to stick around and give you a good chance to win. That's what I've seen from him so far."

Worth noting
• The Red Sox scored five runs in the fifth inning of the second game of Thursday's doubleheader against the Rays. That's the fourth time on the current road trip the Rays have allowed five-plus runs in an inning, and the sixth time this season.

The Rays, Orioles and Dodgers all swept doubleheaders on Thursday. According to Elias, the last time there were three sweeps in one day was Sept. 29, 2004, when the Orioles, Yankees and Phillies all swept.

• On May 3, 1936, Joe DiMaggio made his Major League debut for the Yankees in a 14-5 victory over the St. Louis Browns at Yankee Stadium. DiMaggio went 3-for-6 -- including a triple -- scoring three runs and driving in one.

• Yankees lefty Vidal Nuno was lifted after 4 2/3 innings on Friday night, but he kept a streak alive by allowing just five hits. He has allowed five hits or fewer in each of his six career starts.

MLB.com Comments