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Tanaka makes much anticipated debut in Toronto

(SportsNetwork.com) - Masahiro Tanaka makes his much anticipated major league debut on Friday when the New York Yankees visit the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of three games at Rogers Centre.

The Yankees won the Tanaka sweepstakes this winter, as they signed the Japanese superstar to a 7-year, $155 million deal after a spectacular few seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League. They also had to pay a $20 million posting fee to Rakuten.

The 25-year-old right-hander finished an astonishing 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average and 183 strikeouts against 32 walks in 212 innings over 28 games (27 starts) last year for Rakuten.

Over the past three seasons Tanaka has gone 53-9 with a 1.44 ERA and 593 strikeouts over 611 1/3 innings. he's also won two Sawamura Awards, an honor given to the top starting pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball.

In seven professional seasons, all with the Golden Eagles, Tanaka has posted a 99-35 mark and 2.30 ERA in 175 games -- all but three as a starter -- while fanning 1,238 batters in 1,315 innings.

"I would think there will be a ton of attention on (Tanaka) tomorrow, just because of what he did last year in Japan, the contract he signed, who he signed it with and it being opening day in Toronto," Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Tanaka was quite impressive this spring, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five games, striking out 26 and walking three in 21 innings.

"We've seen him in spring training but you want to see what a guy's like when the real bright lights turn on," Girardi said. ''We expect him to do just fine, but you still want to see him."

Tanaka won't have the added pressure of getting New York off the schneid, as the Yankees salvaged the finale of their season-opening three-game set with the Houston Astros on Thursday. Yangervis Solarte went 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored in his first MLB start to help the Yankees to a 4-2 win.

Solarte batted ninth and played third base just one day after making his major league debut in the Yankees' 3-1 loss to the Astros on Wednesday, going 0- for-2.

Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner each knocked in a run for the Yankees, who prevented their first 0-3 start since 2012. Ichiro Suzuki went 2- for-4 with two runs scored.

Jeter, by the way, is not expected to be in the lineup on Friday.

Toronto, meanwhile, was denied a series win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, as it fell, 7-2, to split the season-opening, four-game series at Tropicana Field.

Brett Lawrie and Dioner Navarro had an RBI apiece for the Blue Jays, who haven't won a series in St. Petersburg since taking two of three from the Rays from April 6-8, 2007.

Brandon Morrow (0-1), making his first start since May 28, 2013, allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list in June and missed the rest of the season with an entrapped radial nerve in his forearm.

"I still thought I made some good pitches," Morrow said. "You could tell (the Rays) weren't giving away at-bats, not trying to come out of their shoes, but working counts and they did a good job."

Getting the call for the Blue Jays in their home opener on Friday will be righty Dustin McGowan, who will be making his first big league start since Sept. 26, 2011. After missing all of 2012 with a shoulder injury, McGowan returned last season and pitched to a 2.45 ERA in 25 relief appearances.

"I'm going to be jacked up. I'm excited," McGowan said. "I keep thinking about it every day and I know when that day gets here it's going to be special, and I'm going to be ready for it. I'll have to calm myself down but it's good to have it pumping sometimes, gives you a little bit extra sometimes."

McGowan became a late spring contender for the final spot in Toronto's rotation after both J.A. Happ and Esmil Rogers struggled.

This is actually the first time McGowan has made the 25-man roster out of spring training since 2008, the last time he was a full-time starter. .