With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda absent from the Yankees' starting rotation for most of the last month, it would seem logical, at least statistically speaking, to dub Masahiro Tanaka the current ace of the staff.
"I don't look at myself as an ace at all," Tanaka said through an interpreter." All I'm really trying to do is go up there on the mound each start, try to give it my best out there, just try to beat the opponent. … It's way too soon."
Still, when manager Joe Girardi sends Tanaka to the hill Saturday against the Twins, he'll be tabbing the rotation leader in wins (seven), ERA (2.29), and strikeouts (79). Tanaka may not be ready to label himself the ace, but so far, he's fulfilled all the responsibilities of that role.
On Saturday, Tanaka will return to the mound at Yankee Stadium, where he's still undefeated, coming off a win against the White Sox on Sunday. Tanaka kept Chicago hitters to one earned run over 6 2/3 innings, fanning six and throwing 73 of his 118 pitches for strikes.
Tanaka -- trying to help even the series -- will face a Twins lineup that hit three home runs in a game for the first time in Friday's 6-1 win, but still ranks 23rd in the league with a .243 team batting average and tied for 21st with 43 homers. After allowing seven home runs to start the year, Tanaka hasn't served up any in his last four starts, dating back to May 9.
"I'm pitching the way I want to pitch out there," said Tanaka. "I haven't differed the approach from those games that I've given up home runs."
The Twins will counter with Kevin Correia, who is 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA in 10 starts. Minnesota, in fourth place and just under .500 in the American League Central, has lost six of its last eight, averaging just 2 1/2 runs per game in that span.
"You've got to fight your way through these things," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "We're in the ballgames -- that's what we asked for at the beginning of the season. We're in 'em. Now we got to figure out a way to win more of 'em."
Righty Correia has a 7.04 ERA in six starts since April 25, and he's surrendered four home runs, two of which have come at the spacious Target Field. But the veteran righty is beginning to find his control.
"I wouldn't call it a work in progress," Correia said. "But we're making some adjustments, and I feel like they're taking hold. The ball feels like it's coming out pretty good."
Yankees: Teixeira back in the lineup
Mark Teixeira took early batting practice at Yankee Stadium on Friday and declared himself ready to play, having missed the Yankees' last three games with inflammation in his surgically repaired right wrist.
Teixeira said that the inflammation is related to the injury that ended his 2013 campaign, and he has been told that it could flare up again. He believes that he can stay in the lineup with proper management.
"It's exactly what we expected," said Teixeira, who visited a New York-based specialist during Thursday's off-day. "It's just tendinitis. That's what we expected. From that standpoint, it's a relief that there's no structural damage, but it's just something that we'll have to continue to deal with."
In his return to the batter's box, Teixeira rarely swung, making contact just three times on foul balls. He walked three times and struck out looking in four plate appearances.
Twins: Nunez returns to Yankee Stadium
Phil Hughes' return to Yankee Stadium will garner the majority of headlines when he starts for the Twins on Sunday. But another former Yankee made his odyssey Friday.
Eduardo Nunez played parts of four seasons with the Yankees before the Twins traded for him in April, so he admitted that returning to Yankee Stadium for the first time as a visitor on Friday was a bit strange. But Nunez said he enjoyed his time in New York, and he was happy to see his former teammates.
"It's fun to see my old teammates," Nunez said. "It was fun playing with them. But it's a little weird being on the other side. I had good memories here. I played with them for four years, and so I have nothing bad to say about the Yankees. It's business."
Nunez went 1-for-4 with an RBI on Friday.
• After stealing three bases against St. Louis in the Yankees' last series, Jacoby Ellsbury became the first player to have at least three swiped bags against Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in a single series since Carlos Gomez did it over a two-game span last year.
• The Twins' Danny Santana, who started in center field and led off on Friday, exited in the third inning with a laceration on his left eyelid that required stitches. He was injured by his helmet while sliding headfirst into third on steal. He says it's unlikely that he'll play Saturday.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.