NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s no doubt Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t been the same this season, but the Yankees ace’s struggles are not unprecedented.

In an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Thursday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi compared Tanaka’s situation this year to what Houston’s Dallas Keuchel endured last year.

“This guy (Keuchel) was Cy Young the year before,” Girardi said. “And Dallas Keuchel is as good as any pitcher right now in the game.”

A year after going 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA, Tanaka is 5-5 with a 6.34 ERA. Keuchel followed up his 2015 season, in which he went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA, with a 9-12 record and 4.55 ERA.

Girardi noted that the ups and downs are common among hitters, too.

“Joe Torre always said: ‘I was the same guy. One year, I hit .360; the next year, I hit .260. But I was the same guy,'” Girardi said.

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Girardi insisted Tanaka’s problems are not physical.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Why don’t you go MRI him?’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ You don’t MRI someone just because they’re struggling,” the Yankees’ skipper said. “Just think about every hitter that went into a slump and you put them in an MRI tube. He’s just struggling.”


• Girardi said Greg Bird (ankle) went 2-for-4 in a simulated game Wednesday. The first baseman will make his first rehab start Thursday for the Class-A Tampa Yankees. Girardi said he’s not sure when Bird might return to the major league Yankees’ lineup.

• Closer Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) threw from 90 to 100 feet Thursday.

• Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s neck is still bothering him after crashing into Yankee Stadium’s outfield wall May 24. “We just feel like he’s not ready to take that test yet, so we’re not giving it to him,” Girardi said.

To listen to the full interview with Girardi, click on the audio player above.

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