66° Good Evening
66° Good Evening

Blue Jays on Masahiro Tanaka: Too many 'mistakes'

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka stands

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka stands on the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 6, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Despite the 48,469 fans at Yankee Stadium who probably were thinking it -- along with countless fans watching on TV -- there was no unanimous confirmation from the Toronto clubhouse that Masahiro Tanaka might be in a little bit of trouble.

The Yankees righthander dominated the Blue Jays last year, posting a 1.96 ERA against them and winning all three of his starts. Monday was a different story. Tanaka, who was on a pitch count of 90, threw 82 in four innings and allowed five third-inning runs (four earned) in a 6-1 loss.

Of course, one game isn't indicative of much, but after Tanaka said to expect lower velocity and a different pitching approach this season, it's hard not to look for signs that things might be slightly askew. After all, when it comes to their No. 1 starter, the Yankees' underlying concern is about as nagging as that small tear in Tanaka's ulnar collateral ligament.

"Last year, when he was throwing, it was more straight," Blue Jays centerfielder Dalton Pompey said. "This year, it's more of the two-seam [fastball] . . . He was around the plate the whole game and he was throwing some pitches that started on and barely missed or started off and came back for a strike. I thought he pitched pretty well."

Asked if he saw a dip in velocity, Jays manager John Gibbons said, "Maybe a little bit. I don't know too much about that."

The Yankee Stadium scoreboard showed Tanaka routinely hitting 93 mph, 2 or 3 miles faster than he typically clocked during spring training, but he also used a steadier diet of two-seam fastballs, which have more movement than four-seamers but less juice. He also didn't locate as well as he would have liked. Which is why when Pompey, Russell Martin and Gibbons were asked what happened in the third, they all said the same thing: "Mistakes."

Tanaka cruised until Kevin Pillar led off the third with a hard single to the right of diving third baseman Chase Headley. Headley's throwing error on a bunt later in the inning allowed a run to score and put runners on second and third with none out, and Martin's two-run single to right and Edwin Encarnacion's two-run homer to left made it 5-0.

"A couple of the guys took advantage of some mistakes that were left up in the zone," Martin said. "He has so many late-movement pitches that are balls down in the zone that he gets for chases, so . . . if you just get him up a little bit, there'll be better pitches to hit."

Martin expressed the optimism that few might be feeling: "He's got great stuff. I wouldn't be too worried about him."

New York Sports