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Joe Girardi tries to clear up issue regarding Masahiro Tanaka's velocity comments

Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees looks

Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees looks at the ball against the Toronto Blue Jays during Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 6, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joe Girardi said it was simply a matter of miscommunication.

Masahiro Tanaka made news last weekend in Washington when he said not to expect the same fastball velocity out of him this year as last.

But, after meeting with Tanaka following the team's return to New York, Girardi said the pitcher didn't mean it as it sounded, taken by many to be a way to protect his right elbow.

"What he was trying to say is, 'I'm not a guy that throws 96, 97, 98, I use my off-speed a lot,' '' Girardi said. "I think what he was meaning to say was 'I'm not a flame-thrower, that's not how I pitch.' I am going to pitch different than some of the other guys who throw hard."

Although it is unquestionably true that Tanaka relies far more on his splitter and slider, and did last year when he bolted out of the gate to an 11-1 start, what is equally unquestioned is the righthander's velocity on his four-seamer and two-seamer (his sinker) isn't the same.

It is not a dramatic dip, but Blue Jays hitters openly discussed after Monday's 6-1 victory the difference.

"It's different when you have a pitcher that's throwing 93, 94, 95 mph with that kind of stuff Tanaka has," Jose Reyes said. "But when he throws 88, 89, we feel a bit more comfortable, for sure."

It showed as Tanaka, while he did strike out six, allowed five runs -- four earned -- five hits and two walks.

Girardi said the 26-year-old focusing more on his two-seamer was "strategic" rather than a case of not wanting to go full-throttle with his elbow, which sustained a partial UCL tear last season. And, the Yankees and Tanaka insist, the pitcher isn't hurt.

Others have doubts.

"He's clearly protecting it [the elbow]," said one AL talent evaluator who watched Tanaka in the spring and again on Monday. "The question is, is he protecting it because he's hurt or he just doesn't feel comfortable letting loose?"

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