With the way the Yankees have laid out their pitching for the rest of this week, it appears the rotation has been set to begin the 2014 season. C.C. Sabathia will throw on opening day followed by Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova in the Yankees opening series against the Astros. Mashiro Tanaka will be slid into the 4th spot and will make his major league debut against the Blue jays on April 4th. Joe Girardi also announced that Michael Pineda has earned the 5th and final spot in the rotation.
Although it sounds weird to have a pitcher who just signed a contract for $155 million as fourth in your rotation, there are a few reasons behind this. One being that Tanaka is simply not used to the American 5 man rotation. The way the Yankees early season schedule is configured, this will give Tanaka a few extra days rest throughout the month, allowing him to ease into this transition. You also have to take into account the similarities in Tanaka and Kuroda’s repertoire, it wouldn’t be wise to pitch them in back-to-back games, or even in the same series for that matter, and this should help minimize that occurrence.
One final factor, in my opinion, is this helps him avoid the Red Sox during their two matchups in April. I know what you’re thinking, why wouldn’t you want potentially your best pitcher to take on your biggest rival? I think the Yankees are trying their best to allow him to ease into the season and let him get battle tested before pitching meaningful games against the Sox down the stretch.
Once the season really gets going, it won’t really matter what game Tanaka started to begin the year. These slots are interchangeable and are just something that cause unnecessary arguments until we have actual baseball games to talk about. If this were a postseason rotation, then yes it might be a big deal, but we’ll have that conversation when/if the time comes.