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Broken Clouds 37° Good Morning

For Masahiro Tanaka, it begins for real Friday night

Masahiro Tanaka throws in the bullpen before pitching

Masahiro Tanaka throws in the bullpen before pitching in a simulated game Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Photo Credit: Steve Nesius

HOUSTON - Masahiro Tanaka played to nearly universal rave reviews during spring training. Nice, but ultimately irrelevant. The relevant portion of his season begins Friday night in Toronto when the 25-year-old righthander makes his major-league debut against the Blue Jays.

"We've seen him in spring training,'' Joe Girardi said, "but you also want to see what a guy's like when the real bright lights come on. We expect him to do just fine, but you still want to see it.''

Tanaka impressed people across the board -- the Yankees, opposing teams and opposing scouts -- when he posted a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings in spring training. Armed with a six-pitch repertoire, he struck out 26 and walked three.

In the Blue Jays' home opener, he will have a chance to test his stuff against what looks like a potent lineup, even without Jose Reyes. "It should be quite an atmosphere,'' Girardi said.

Tanaka, signed to a seven-year contract worth $155 million in January, appeared bothered by nothing during spring training, a levelheadedness in the face of constant chaos that has his teammates believing the exhibition season was a prelude to regular-season success.

"I expect exactly what he did in spring,'' Brian McCann said. "I expect tomorrow to be no different.''

Tanaka, who left for Toronto early Thursday afternoon, said Wednesday that his excitement level for his debut was "getting up there.'' He added, "I'm sure I will be amped up a little bit, but not to the point where I'm worried about that.''

Rest for weary

Derek Jeter played in the first three games but will get a day off Friday night or Saturday afternoon in Toronto. "He'll tell me to sleep on it, but we'll probably talk after tonight,'' Girardi said. "He'll get one of those two [off].''

Girardi said Mark Teixeira, who played all three games against the Astros, also will get Friday night or Saturday off.

Core Four reunion

The Yankees announced that in Monday's home opener, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will throw out ceremonial first pitches to Jeter and Jorge Posada.

Whipping birds

The Yankees went 14-5 against the Blue Jays in 2013, but only 4-5 at Rogers Centre. The Yankees outscored the Blue Jays 84-59 and came from behind in nine of the 14 victories.

New York Sports