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By MARK DIDTLER
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Masahiro Tanaka's first pitch of spring training was a wild one, sailing all the way to the backstop.
Then, the New York Yankees ace quickly settled in.
Tanaka struck out two over two hitless innings during his initial exhibition start Tuesday in the Yankees' split-squad 9-5 win over the Detroit Tigers.
The right-hander's opening pitch soared over the head of Tigers leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler.
"I liked everything except the first pitch," Tanaka said through a translator. "I'm not really sure (what happened)."
Tanaka did say that the angles of the bullpen mound and the slope of the main hill were different.
Kinsler reached on an infield error but was erased when Omar Infante hit into a double play. Tanaka ended the first by striking out Nicholas Castellanos.
Tanaka struck out Steven Moya during a perfect second. He reached 92 mph in a 25-pitch outing that included 16 strikes.
"Overall I thought everything was good," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "It was good to see him stay within his delivery and execute the pitches he needed to execute, and come out of it and feel good."
Both strikeouts came on split-finger pitches.
"The split was really good, and the slider (too)" Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said through a translator. "The location of the fastball was a little off. But it's the first start, so I know he can locate better."
Four of the six batters Tanaka faced hit the ball on the ground.
"It means that the batter is off balance, you're getting the batter to be off-balance," Tanaka said. "I think it's a good sign."
Tanaka is scheduled to start on opening day April 2 at Tampa Bay.
Tanaka was a concern at the start of spring training last year after arthroscopic surgery in October 2015 to remove a bone spur from his throwing elbow. He went 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 starts, throwing a career-high 199 2-3 innings.
"Right now I think I'm on the right path," Tanaka said. "As far as my body goes, it's in good shape. So it's been good."
Tanaka is 39-16 with a 3.12 ERA over 75 starts in three seasons with the Yankees. He was limited to 44 starts over his first two seasons due to injuries.
Tanaka's $155 million, seven-year contract allows him to terminate the deal after this season, give up a $23 million annual salary from 2018-20 and become a free agent.
Updated February 28, 2017