Masahiro Tanaka is Yankees' 'No. 3 starter,' says GM

Koji Watanabe

Brian Cashman isn't expecting Tanaka to carry the rotation in his first year in the majors.

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spoke about recently signed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on Friday and stated that the hurler has the potential to be a "No. 3 starter," according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN.

The 25-year-old Tanaka inked a seven-year, $155 million contract in January, and expectations are sure to be huge. The deal is the largest ever given to an international player, and, coupled with Tanaka's impressive numbers in Japan (24-0, 1.27 ERA) and the pressures of pitching in New York, fans surely have high hopes for the right-hander. However, Cashman's comments on ESPN Radio aimed to temper those expectations (via Marchand):

"We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter. If we get more than that, all the better. He's got a great deal of ability...There is definitely some unknown because of the transition."

Given the state of the Yankees' rotation, Tanaka may not need to be more than a No. 3 next season. Although CC Sabathia had an off-year in 2013, he is still only 33 years old and posted a collective 3.22 ERA (135 ERA+) in 905 innings in his first four seasons in New York; he will be relied on as the ace once again in 2014. Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda slots in as the No. 2 after turning in strong performances in each of the last two seasons for the Yankees. The back of the rotation is less certain, with the inconsistent Ivan Nova followed by a host of fifth-starter candidates, but the important thing for Tanaka is that he will not be expected to carry the rotation in his first year in the majors.

Cashman went on to say that he expects Tanaka to go through "some growing pains" as he becomes accustomed to pitching in a five-man major league rotation. Yu Darvish, who is often used as a comparison for Tanaka as the most recent Japanese pitching sensation to move to the U.S., struggled at times in his rookie year of 2012 before showing improvement in his sophomore campaign last year. The Yankees are no strangers to Japanese imports struggling in the majors, as past contracts given to Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa did not yield the desired results, so providing a low-pressure environment to Tanaka could be one of their strategies to give him the best possible chance to succeed.

Cashman, via Marchand:

"No, he is not someone who is going to, in the front end of this thing, pitch in the front of the rotation."

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