NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka’s next scheduled start has been pushed back one day as the New York Yankees attempt to get their struggling ace back on track.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka will pitch Monday night at the Los Angeles Angels rather than Sunday at home against AL East-rival Baltimore. That gives the right-hander five days between outings, a routine he’s more accustomed to.
“No big deal,” Tanaka said through a translator. “It just gives me an extra day.”
Minus injured star Mike Trout, the Angels entered Friday tied for last in the American League in slugging percentage. Tanaka has faced the power-hitting Orioles twice this season, and they roughed him up in Baltimore on May 31.
“There’s all kind of factors. He’s struggling. Baltimore’s seen him a lot. An extra day is not going to hurt him. It’s just all those things,” Girardi said. “We just thought the extra day would be good and pitching in Anaheim is what’s best for him.”
New York has not announced a spot starter for Sunday. Girardi said the team has “internal candidates” — some on the major league staff and some in Triple-A — but the decision will depend on how the games play out Friday and Saturday.
The 28-year-old Tanaka has lost a career-worst five straight outings and is 5-6 with a 6.55 ERA in 12 starts this season. Despite his losing streak, the Yankees began Friday with a three-game lead in the AL East.
“I feel like I know why my command is not there,” Tanaka said. “I’m in the process of trying to fix it.”
In other news, injured closer Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday morning at the team’s complex in Tampa, Florida. Chapman said he expects a one-game minor league rehab assignment to follow, and he’ll probably rejoin the Yankees on the West Coast in about a week.
“I’m very anxious to finish the process and get back here to start helping these guys,” Chapman said through a translator. “I feel ready. I feel good. My arm feels good. What we have to do now is just get through those minor league innings, see how I feel after that, and see what happens.”
Chapman has been on the disabled list since May 13 with rotator cuff inflammation in his left shoulder. He said he hasn’t felt any discomfort since the day he went on the DL.
“The following days, after going through all the rehab, exercises and treatment, the pain went away,” he said. “No pain at all. Everything feels free and good.”
Tanaka gave up three home runs in five innings Tuesday night during a 5-4 loss to Boston, his fifth consecutive defeat. He has allowed 27 runs and 11 homers over his last 22 2/3 innings.
There was one outstanding performance during that stretch, when he struck out 13 over 7 1/3 innings and yielded only one run against Oakland on May 26. But he followed that up by permitting seven runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 10-4 loss at Baltimore on May 31.
“It really comes down to mechanics,” Tanaka said. “I feel like I understand what I need to do. I’m not giving out any details, but I’m working on it.”
Tanaka was sidelined for almost 2 1/2 months during the 2014 season because of a partially torn elbow ligament, but he rehabbed the injury rather than have Tommy John surgery. He and the Yankees have reiterated several times recently that he is healthy.
The pitcher came over from Japan and signed a $155 million, seven-year contract with the Yankees in January 2014. He is 44-22 in the majors, and his highest ERA in three previous big league seasons was 3.51 in 2015.
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