Masahiro Tanaka says he’s changing his style, doesn’t expect to throw as hard this season

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Where the Yankees go this season could hinge on the health and effectiveness of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, which is why his comments today are pretty interesting:

Tanaka was good this spring, posting a 3.07 ERA and 13/1 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings, but his velocity has been noticeably lower than it was last year and he’s relying more on his two-seam fastball. He previously told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he’s adjusting his pitch mix because his four-seamer was “vulnerable” last year, but this is also presumably part of a plan to protect the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Whether it will keep Tanaka from requiring Tommy John surgery is anybody’s guess, but seeing him try to get by on diminished stuff this year will be fascinating.

Tanaka, who had a 2.77 ERA over 20 starts in his first year stateside, is scheduled to pitch Opening Day on Monday against the Blue Jays.