There he was. The most anticipated debut this year had arrived. Masahiro Tanaka was on the mound pitching for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the Japanese legend’s first start in Major League Baseball. It didn’t start off too well as former Yankee Melky Cabrera slugged a lead-off home run on only Tanaka’s third pitch. Yikes! He bounced back with two strikeouts to end the inning but ran into trouble in the second inning as he allowed 2 runs (one unearned) and surrendered the lead to Toronto. He would work out of it, but it was still a very inauspicious beginning to the Yankees’ $175 million dollar investment. The Yankee bats took back the lead in the third inning and then Tanaka settled in. From that point on, he pitched through the 7th inning, allowing no runs and only 2 hits. He’d finish the game with 8 strikeouts, one win, and 9 somewhat dazed opposing batters.
Tanaka said after the game that he felt nervous at first, but did start to calm down after a few innings. Yes he did and he showed the baseball world what he’s made of when he didn’t crack under the pressure or get discouraged when he faltered. For someone who was as nervous as he said he was, Tanaka really did look great and the Yankees are giddy about their new pitcher. Tanaka’s debut was not dominate and that may be a good thing. He’s not going to go 24-0 here in the U.S. like he did last year in Japan. What the Blue Jays did was allow Tanaka to display his determination and mental toughness as he worked into and out of early jams. He’s going to have to learn to face obstacles more now than ever before. He was fantastic from the 4th inning on and I’m sure we’ll see much more of that. If that’s Tanaka when he’s nervous, I’d hate to be an opposing hitter facing him when he’s relaxed.