The problem hasn’t been solved yet, but the Yankees have an idea on what’s wrong with their ace.
Prior to New York’s 7-1 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night, Masahiro Tanaka and his translator spent some time with pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the visiting clubhouse, discussing reasons why the 28-year-old’s signature splitter and sweeping slider hasn’t lived up to anyone’s expectations.
“[Tanaka’s] front leg is coming open and his arm drags, and then you just don’t catch up and that changes the angle of every pitch and the quickness to the plate of the pitches,” Rothschild told NJ.com. “You keep your eye on it and try to correct it, but Tanaka’s been pretty good at bouncing back and correcting himself and making the adjustments that we try to make on the side.”
Manager Joe Girardi also believes Tanaka’s issues are mechanical, and not physical.
“I think his front shoulder was flying [open] a bit [Sunday],” Girardi told the New York Post. “Sometimes they’re mechanical and we have to iron them out. He hasn’t had a good splitter and slider for most of the year.”
On Sunday night, Tanaka lasted just 1.2 innings after allowing eight runs against the Astros–his shortest major league start since Sept. 2014. Despite owning a 2-1 record in his last three starts, his ERA is 9.00, and opponents are hitting .291/.343/.533 in his eight season starts (5-2, 5.80). Tanaka’s also slated to pitch on Saturday in St. Petersburg against the Rays–a team that drove in seven runs against him in 2.2 innings back on Opening Day.
With this decision, Tanaka will have one extra day of rest, which, according to Girardi, hasn’t necessarily made a difference on Tanaka’s performances. In 2016, the righty was at his best on normal five-days rest (8-1, 2.41 ERA in 13 starts), while he threw four times on six-plus-days rest (2-0, 3.18). But this season, Tanaka’s numbers on normal rest are mediocre (7.65 ERA in four starts), as well as his two starts on extra rest (5.40 ERA).
“He’s had a couple good starts this year. He’s had some really bad ones,” Girardi said. “He just hasn’t had a good split and he hasn’t had a good slider, really, for most of the year. So I don’t think that really has anything to do with rest.”