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Masahiro Tanaka would be honored to start the opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- He says he isn't thinking about it yet, and heaven knows he hasn't been told anything by Joe Girardi, who once refused to confirm Ivan Nova would start the next day's game with the disclaimer, "Well, what if he gets hit by a bus?''

Still, Masahiro Tanaka allowed that it would be special to be tapped to start the New York Yankees regular season opener April 6 at Yankee Stadium ahead of CC Sabathia, who has started the last six.

"Absolutely it’ll be a great honor for me to pitch on Opening Day," Tanaka said. "I think that being able to pitch on that very first day of the season, I think it says a lot about what the organization is expecting out of a pitcher. So in that sense I believe it would probably mean a lot to a lot of starting pitchers that are starting on Opening Day."

It certainly might mean the obvious, that the Yankees are passing the torch from Sabathia, their ace in decline, to his heir apparent, Tanaka. Tanaka has certainly had the better spring, having yet to allow a run and only giving up two hits in 5 2/3 innings over two starts. On the other hand, Sabathia has allowed six earned runs and nine hits, including three home runs to the Mets on Sunday, in 4 2/3 innings. His spring ERA stands at 11.57.

Tanaka sidestepped the questionof whether he felt he deserved to make the start based on his spring performance, though.

"I’m not thinking about it," he said. "I just want to get through (Wednesday's start against the Mets) and then we’ll go from there."