Tanaka: Only thing to do is 'come back strong'

Righty allows seven runs over 2 2/3 innings in season opener after strong spring

Tanaka: Only thing to do is 'come back strong'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Arching his back to trace the path of Evan Longoria's wall-scraping home run toward the left-field corner, Masahiro Tanaka pounded his glove in frustration, a most unexpected sight given the dominance that accompanied his performances throughout the spring.

The Yankees ace was hammered in his third Opening Day start, permitting a career-high seven earned runs while not making it out of the third inning of New York's 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Tanaka explained that he may have been too "hyped up" for the opener.

"I just didn't have good control over myself," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "It just comes back to being a little bit too hyped up. The bottom line was, I just couldn't get the job done."

Longoria's two-run homer

After holding opponents to one earned run over 23 2/3 spring innings (0.38 ERA), Tanaka had permitted three by the end of the first inning.

Reaching back for his lethal splitter, a pitch he threw more than anyone else in the Majors last year (885), Tanaka found that his control did not make the trip across the Howard Frankland Bridge.

"Today he wasn't as sharp as he usually he is," catcher Gary Sanchez said. "He didn't have the command or location of the pitches today."

Corey Dickerson singled and Kevin Kiermaier doubled loudly to open the first inning, setting up a Longoria sacrifice fly, and Logan Morrison cashed in two more runs with a sharp single to center field.

Morrison's two-run single

"I think it started out with the first inning, giving up two easy hits," Tanaka said. "I think I needed to make the necessary adjustments at that point in time, but I just wasn't able to do so."

Longoria homered in the second inning, a shot reminiscent of his Game 162 blast from 2011, and Morrison added a solo blast in the third inning. A Sanchez throwing error contributed to the final run charged to Tanaka, who threw just 67 pitches before yielding to the bullpen.

Tanaka's first strikeout

The seven runs were the most by a Yankees Opening Day starter since Roger Clemens allowed eight at Baltimore in 2002. It was the shortest start by a Yankee on Opening Day since Ron Guidry lasted 2 2/3 innings against the Mariners in 1983.

"I can tell you, I wasn't really expecting that, but he just had a hard time locating his pitches today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I just think [the splitter] wasn't biting. He threw maybe two or three that had the normal break that they usually have, and they were swings and misses."

While Tanaka found reason to critique each of his outings this spring -- even his work in a combined St. Patrick's Day no-hitter against the Tigers -- pitching coach Larry Rothschild said that Tanaka bore little resemblance to the hurler he saw in February and March.

"It wasn't anything like today, but his velocity was up a little bit today," Rothschild said. "He might have been overthrowing a little bit and not be used to having that much adrenaline going, and it might have gotten him off track a little bit."

To the Yankees, that inspires confidence that Tanaka can get back on track in his next start, set for Saturday against the Orioles.

"Obviously, it's tough, but I have to accept it," Tanaka said. "I can't take it back, so the main thing is just move forward, make the necessary adjustments and just come back strong."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.