Masahiro Tanaka prepares for first Yankee Stadium start Wednesday

Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka was strong in spring training and his first start in Toronto last week.
Credit: Getty Images

Though he is not about to divulge any of his trade secrets, there are some things Masahiro Tanaka feels can be improved upon in his next start.

He makes his Yankee Stadium debut when he takes the mound on Wednesday night against the Orioles.

“For me, it’s all about the mechanics about how I pitched,” Tanaka said through an interpreter before Tuesday’s game. “That said, I know where I need to fix and I’ll go into the game tomorrow.”

Tanaka’s first win came Friday night in Toronto when he allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits while striking out eight without a walk. He wound up becoming the seventh pitcher to have a debut of at least seven innings to go along with eight strikeouts without walking anyone.

Tanaka threw 97 pitches (65 strikes) to 27 hitters and the breakdown was 30 sinking fastballs, 24 split-fingered fastballs, 18 sliders, 12 four-seam fastballs and a combination of 13 cutters, changeups and curveballs.

Those are pitches Baltimore’s Chris Davis is looking forward to seeing.

“We’ll find out [how we do],” Davis said. “We obviously haven’t seen him yet. We know a lot about him but it’s one of those things you game plan and go out and play the game”

The focus on mechanics trumps any focus on the potential of pitching in the cold because Tanaka spent time pitching in Sendai, Japan, which has similar weather fluctuations as New York.

Perhaps the biggest thing Tanaka is anticipating is the crowd, especially after he heard some of the biggest cheers during pregame ceremonies in the home opener.

“I was going through the ceremony yesterday and I felt that the fans are here to back us up, not like Toronto,” he said. “It should be nice.”

Who’s on first?

Manager Joe Girardi often tells players to do something just in case a situation arises.

For Francisco Cervelli, that something was taking ground balls at first base and Tuesday afternoon “just in case” became a reality for the backup catcher.

By Cervelli’s estimate, it was his first appearance since he was 15 years old in Venezuela.

“If I’ve got to pitch, I’ll go, too,” Cervelli said. “It’s not like I feel like I’m Mark Teixeira, but I think I’m going to be comfortable with more games. I think it’s like every other position. If I feel I’m not going to catch the ball, I’m going to block it.”

The Yankees were not looking for anything like Teixeira’s Gold Glove-caliber performance but decided to put Cervelli there based on what they’ve witnessed during infield practices. Cervelli didn’t get any time at first in exhibition games due to the backup catching competition.

“[We are looking] for him to be OK,” Girardi said. “Obviously he hasn’t a lot of time over there. I’ve seen him take a lot of ground balls over the years he’s been here. When I’ve watched he’s been able to take ground balls and make it look pretty easy.”

Cervelli wound up recording six putouts and earned a passing grade from Girardi, though there was a mix-up on a bunt base hit by Ryan Flaherty in the second.

Jones offers thoughts on trespassers

During the final innings, two fans sprinted onto the field and were tackled by security guards once they reached second base.

Along the way, they were also greeted with some choice words from Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones.

Afterward, Jones didn’t hide his feelings on those who decide to run out on the field.

“I let him know how I felt,” Jones said. “Obviously [I had] a lot of choice words because I think it’s idiotic for people to run on the field and I think the punishment needs to be a lot harsher and I think they should let us have a shot to kick them with our metal spikes.

“It’s stupid. You look like a jackass when you run on the field and we don’t go to any other events, we don’t go to other sporting events, and do that to their jobs. I get it, you’re drunk and you want to be on ‘Sportscenter’ but your ass is going to jail with a fine and you might not be allowed to come back to the ballpark.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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