The New York Yankees announced Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound on Opening Day when they face off with the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on April 6.
They confirmed the choice on social media:
MLB showcased what Toronto hitters will be dealing with:
"The announcement from manager Joe Girardi on Friday morning was hardly a surprise, since it was clear last season that Tanaka had assumed the role of ace from Sabathia, whose effectiveness has been compromised by elbow and knee injuries and a significant loss of fastball velocity over the past two seasons," noted Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
Tanaka was outstanding during his rookie campaign with the Yankees. He posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 20 starts while striking out 141 batters in 136.1 innings. Some elbow issues caused him to miss time, but he's healthy heading into the 2015 campaign.
On March 24, Tanaka stated he would be honored to start on Opening Day, as relayed by Matthews:
Absolutely it'll be a great honor for me to pitch on Opening Day. I think that being able to pitch on that very first day of the season, I think it says a lot about what the organization is expecting out of a pitcher. So in that sense I believe it would probably mean a lot to a lot of starting pitchers that are starting on Opening Day.
His selection ends a six-year run for CC Sabathia receiving the ball on Opening Day for the storied organization. That leaves him one short of the franchise record shared by Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry.
That said, Tanaka deserved the honor based on performance.