ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Masahiro Tanaka is well aware of what awaits in his first start Tuesday night at Fenway Park: the Green Monster and Boston’s fanatical fans.
The Japanese star plays his first game at Fenway on Tuesday night, when Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury returns to the ballpark where he helped the Red Sox win World Series titles in 2007 and last year.
“I’m sure that the fans will be heated up a bit,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’ve seen the two teams play (on TV), and I understand there’s a rivalry between the two teams going into the game. It should be a good experience going up on the mound that day and I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Tanaka has a simple plan for the 37-foot-high Green Monster in left field.
“I understand that if you give up flyballs, it might be dangerous,” he said. “So, I think the best thing to do is try to get as many groundball outs as possible.”
Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in three games with 28 strikeouts and two walks in 22 innings. The 28 strikeouts are the most by a Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts.
Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year to lead the Rakuten Golden Eagles to their first Japan Series title, then signed a $155 million, seven-year contract with the Yankees.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think anyone who is a fan of the game is going to look forward to watching a highly touted guy coming to the major leagues. We know that he’s got a well-above-average split-finger fastball. We’re looking forward to seeing him on the field.”
Jon Lester is slated to start for Boston. New York manager Joe Girardi expects Ellsbury to get a mixed reception after leaving the Red Sox to a sign a $153 million, seven-year deal with New York.
“We’ll see what happens,” Ellsbury said. “You can’t think about what they’re going to do. In this game, you can really only focus on what you can do. Not worry about all that other stuff you can’t control.”
“I gave the organization everything I had for a third of my life,” he added. “Nine years in an organization – drafted by them, came up and won two World Series. I left it all on the field.”
NOTES: Yankees closer David Robertson is eligible to come off the 15-day DL list Tuesday. He has been sidelined by a groin strain. … RHP Bryan Mitchell was optioned to Double-A Trenton.
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