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Tanaka to face top of Phillies' order in first start

New Yankees righty eager to test skills after coming out of 'pen in spring debut

Tanaka to face top of Phillies' order in first start

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Thursday, and the right-hander is looking forward to testing his stuff against the top of the Phillies' batting order.

"It will be my first time actually starting a game from the first inning. I'll be able to face some of the first-string batters," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'd like to go up there and see how I can pitch against those batters."

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The 1:05 p.m. ET game at Bright House Field will mark Tanaka's second spring appearance; he entered in relief on March 1 against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field, throwing two scoreless innings while allowing two hits and striking out three.

"I feel that's important, to be able to face good batters here in the [United] States," Tanaka said. "Definitely, I need that experience. It's very important to me."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is eager to see how Tanaka handles the Phillies' batting order. Tanaka is scheduled to pitch three innings in Thursday's game.

"I think it's an opportunity to see what he needs to do, to see what he feels he needs to do to be successful over here," Girardi said. "He's had a ton of success in Japan, and they want to make adjustments, just like anyone else."

Tanaka, 25, said that he feels that he has been able to adjust well to life in a Major League camp after years of stardom in Japan. His teammates seem to have embraced him; during his interview Wednesday, reliever Preston Claiborne leaned over to offer a fist bump after Tanaka answered a reporter's question, which Tanaka happily returned.

Saying that there have been no surprises in particular about the training regimen in camp, Tanaka said that he has found Florida to be "very comforting and nice every day." When Tanaka heads to the mound on Thursday, he plans to be most focused on his mechanics.

"This is something that I'm always aware of, is the pitching form, how I pitch out there," Tanaka said. "That is something that I'm always conscious of, being on the mound."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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