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Yankees News: Masahiro Tanaka Named Opening Day Starter, James Paxton No. 2

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2019

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka delivers the ball to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept.14, 2018, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Masahiro Tanaka has been named the Opening Day starter for the New York Yankees, manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday.

It marks the fourth time he's received the honor, as Tanaka started the first game of the season in each of the three years before 2018. Luis Severino got the nod last season.

Boone added James Paxton and J.A. Happ will follow Tanaka in the rotation, as Severino may miss the start of the regular season because of right shoulder inflammation.

The 30-year-old Tanaka went 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 27 starts last year. He also shined in the postseason, throwing five innings of three-hit, one-run ball against the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

Still, he has not fared well on Opening Day. He allowed four earned runs in four innings in his first Opening Day start in 2015, two runs in 5.2 innings in 2016 and seven runs in 2.2 innings in 2017.

"Obviously if you are given the opportunity to pitch on that day, you want to do your best," Tanaka said Friday, according to the New York Post's George A. King III. "If you look back, I don't think I have necessarily been good on Opening Day."

While Tanaka's 9.49 career Opening Day ERA may not be pretty, his skipper is not afraid to hand him the ball.

"Masa has clearly shown throughout his life, really, that he's really good in the big spot," Boone told reporters Friday. "Certainly an Opening Day situation, he wouldn't flinch at it. He'd be prepared."

Meanwhile, Paxton will start the year second in the rotation after New York acquired him from the Seattle Mariners during the offseason. The 30-year-old is coming off another solid performance, going 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA with two complete games in 28 starts, striking out 208 hitters in 160.1 innings.

He also threw a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays last May:

Happ re-signed after he went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Yankees following a midseason trade from the Blue Jays. A 17-win season helped the then-35-year-old make his first All-Star team. 

New York will be short-handed in the rotation to start the season. Not only is Severino dealing with an injury, but C.C. Sabathia (knee) is also expected to start the year on the injured list.

The Yankees will open the regular season at home against the Baltimore Orioles on March 28.