Masahiro Tanaka to pitch Saturday

Updated: February 26, 2014, 7:57 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees fans will get their first look at Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher who went 24-0 for his last team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallMasahiro Tanaka is scheduled to make his Yankees debut Saturday against the Phillies.

Tanaka will share pitching duties with CC Sabathia, who will start the game, and his countryman Hiroki Kuroda. Girardi said each pitcher will work two innings to a maximum of 35 pitches.

Girardi did not know in which order Tanaka or Kuroda would follow Sabathia, except to say that each of his three starters would be brought in at the beginning of an inning.

"That's a big thing for them, to come into a clean inning," Girardi said. "That's the way [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] drew it up."

Tanaka's first preseason game is certain to be not only a sellout, but a media circus, since his early bullpen and batting practice sessions have drawn a crowd of reporters and photographers from two continents. In response to the media crush, the Yankees have enforced unusual regulations to keep reporters at a distance from the pitcher they paid $155 million to sign for seven years, plus a $20 million posting fee to Rakuten.

But there will be no such protection on Saturday for Tanaka, who has impressed his catchers and the teammates who were chosen to hit against him in two live batting practice sessions this week.

"There are still adjustments he has to make," Girardi said of Tanaka, 25, who is accustomed to pitching just once a week in Japan as opposed to the typical starter's schedule of once every five days in the United States.

As a result, Girardi said Tanaka would be given an occasional extra day between starts during spring training to gradually acclimate him to the new workload. Still, the manager admitted he is as curious as anyone to see what his new starter can do under game conditions.

"I think you want to see him against big league hitters, see how he does and see how he reacts," Girardi said. "I'm happy with the progress that he's made and how he has not tried to do too much. I think he's adapted to what we've asked him to do, and I think he's kind of embraced it. I am looking forward to seeing him out there."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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