SARASOTA, Fla. — The Yankees will start pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on opening day in place of the injured Luis Severino, Manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday.
The selection of Tanaka was expected after Severino, the staff ace, injured his pitching shoulder on Tuesday. The Yankees will open their season on March 28 against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Barring any injuries, Tanaka will make his fourth opening day start in five years. Severino got the 2018 assignment.
“If you look at the big picture, it’s not something good,” Tanaka said through a team interpreter earlier in the week. “Obviously Sevy is our ace, and he’s hurt.”
Tanaka, 30, has given up 14 runs over 12⅓ innings combined in his previous three opening day starts. Although he missed a month last season with hamstring strains, he was a key piece of the Yankees’ rotation, going 12-6 with a 3.75 earned run average over 156 innings.
“If you look back, I haven’t necessarily been good on opening day,” Tanaka said. “But I’ve gotten some experience and gone through the playoffs. So if that situation were to arise, hopefully I can go out there and give a good performance.”
Tanaka will be followed in the rotation, in order, by James Paxton, a newcomer this off-season, and J.A. Happ, who re-signed with the Yankees over the winter.
Because of Severino’s injury and C. C. Sabathia’s off-season surgeries, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German and Luis Cessa are candidates for the final two spots in the rotation to start the season. Cessa, who is out of minor league options and would need to make the team out of spring training or be removed from the roster, is also a candidate for the bullpen.
Severino has inflammation in his right rotator cuff and is in a two-week shutdown from throwing. He could return sometime in April. Sabathia is coming back from off-season operations on his heart and knee, and also must serve a five-game suspension from an incident in which he threw at Tampa Bay’s Jesus Sucre in a game last fall.
“It’s a celebration and an honor to get that start,” Boone said, and added later: “Once we get rolling into the season, it’s one game. No matter the result, bottom line, we’ll give the ball to Masahiro and we feel really good about it.”