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Sox get their first whack at Tanaka

4/22/2014

BOSTON -- Former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury makes his return to Fenway Park on Tuesday as the Sox and New York Yankees open a three-game series. Ace Jon Lester will be on the mound for Boston.

If recent history is any guide, all eyes may wind up on Lester’s counterpart, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who has been dominant in the early going. The 25-year-old is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in three starts.

“Looking forward to seeing him pitch,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. “Anyone who’s a fan of the game would want to see [him]. Have only seen highlights or video of him prior to signing with New York. We know he’s got a well-above-average split-fingered fastball. Competitive, strong, and looking forward to seeing him on the field and across the field from him.”

Tanaka’s 28 strikeouts against just two walks are perhaps the most impressive portion of his stat line. Farrell has been awed by other facets of his start with the Yankees.

“What probably has been as impressive as anything is the pretty quick transition into the major leagues here,” he said.

Tanaka will face a lineup that entered Monday ranked 13th in the American League in hitting (.234) and 14th in slugging (.350).

“It’s going to be like every other pitcher. We’re going to watch video on him, get a scouting report. Everyone’s going to have a plan when we go up there,” said first baseman Mike Napoli. “It’s not going to be any different. Only thing different is we’ve never faced him before. Go up there, have a good approach and do the best I can.”