$155 million in the making, but Masahiro Tanaka made his Major League debut last night against the Blue Jays. On his third pitch, Tanaka was rudely welcomed to the big leagues with a long home run off the bat of Melky Cabrera. But Tanaka settled down quickly and closed out the inning with a pair of strikeouts -- more firsts on the night.
Tanaka got into more trouble in the 2nd, thanks in part to some sketchy defense. Then a pair of run-scoring singles gave Toronto the lead. But again, Tanaka got out of the inning on a pair of strikeouts. The Yankees came back in the 3rd with a couple of runs, once again handing Tanaka the lead. He didn't give it back.
All told, it was a good debut. Tanaka got the win, going 7 solid innings while striking out 8. He had excellent control, throwing 65 of his 97 pitches for strikes and not walking a batter. Other than the homer by Cabrera, there weren't very many hard-hit balls against Tanaka, either.
For a 4th starter, Tanaka was great. But then Tanaka isn't really a 4th starter, is he? For $22 million a year, you'd think you're buying an ace. In Tanaka's defense, one game does not a season make. Let's compare the last great Japanese import, Yu Darvish. Darvish was pretty shaky in his big league debut, and didn't get out of the 7th inning until his 4th start. But he finished the year strong, winning 16 with a sub-4 ERA. And in his 2nd season, Darvish was even better.
So where does Tanaka go from here? I think he's probably a lot closer to Darvish than he is to Hideki Irabu. But will he be able to match his performance to his paycheck? Only time will tell.