Today, as the New York Yankees faced Robbie Cano and the Seattle Mariners, Masahiro Tanaka dominated in his return to the mound.

By Robby Sabo

1authorrob3 - Masahiro Tanaka Dominates In Return; Could Be AL East AnswerSadly, the discussion around New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka in recent times has been one surrounding injuries and comebacks.

In only his second-season in Major League Baseball, he’s already been established as a “brittle arm” in the minds of many. It’s hard to think otherwise based on the reality of his situation.

The 26-year old Japanese import has already had a season cut short (rookie campaign), as well as missing a significant portion of his sophomore season.1yanks2 - Masahiro Tanaka Dominates In Return; Could Be AL East Answer

For all the dark clouds surrounding the uncertainty of Tanaka, at least for one day the Yankees and their fans can celebrate.

Today in Seattle, as the Yanks squared off against former friend Robbie Cano and the Mariners, Tanaka was dominant in his return from the DL.

He pitched seven sparkling innings, surrendering just one run and three hits while striking out nine.

Thanks in part to another home run from Mark Teixeira – his 16th of 2015 – and Garrett Jones chipping in with a two-run dinger in the fourth-inning, New York went on to beat the Mariners 3-1, sweeping the three-game set.

The win improves the Yanks record to 29-25 which is good enough for a 1.5 game lead in the AL East over the very surprising Tampa Bay Rays.

While it’s only one start, this Tanaka return signals much more than just a solid performance.

It signals hope for a team who realizes they need reinforcements if they’re going to make a dent in October baseball.

There’s no getting around the fact that Brian Cashman has to be doing cartwheels at Yankee Stadium right now. The sheer number of remarkable surprises this club has showcased outweighs the realistic negatives by a wide margin.

Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the top two culprits especially. After today’s game, the veteran duo has combined for 27 home runs and 68 runs batted in. These numbers are plain silly considering how injured both guys have been over the past several seasons.

Additionally, aside from Tanaka’s issues and Jacoby Ellsbury’s current DL stint, this Yankees squad, who trots out the third-oldest team in the bigs, has stayed relatively healthy all season long.

Joe Girardi and company have to be thinking the other shoe will drop on some injuries at some point.

Still, this is a club who boasts a dominant bullpen, pretty solid defense (aside from Chase Headley’s confusing 12 errors), and a fantastic lineup. The lineup is so good that they’ve done it in both the speed (12th in MLB with 30 stolen bases) and power (3rd in MLB with 65 home runs) categories.

The big elephant in the room comes when the starting rotation is mentioned.

Simply put: C.C. Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren is just not enough to call New York a serious threat in the AL. Eovaldi is coming along and Pineda, of course, shows tremendous flashes, but a guy is desperately needed at the top of the rotation for the Yankees to be taken seriously in 2015.

Tanaka represents this guy. He also represents so much more than just an ace. He’s the key to the 2015 season.

Furthermore, Tanaka is such a force when healthy that he has the potential to be the difference in a very mediocre AL East.

Today was a great first step, but the reality is this Japanese import represents so much more for the Yanks than one good start.

Click Here for Box Score and Full Game Recap.

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Founder of Elite Sports NY — Formerly of FanSided — Jets, Rangers, Knicks, Yankees, Mets, Giants — Has interviewed the likes of Rob Dyrdek, Michael Waltrip and Dominique Wilkins and has seen his work shared on major publications such as Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, and Yardbarker.

Born as a New York Sports Fan, something unexplainable in his blood that’ll never be shaken. Remembers the Kevin Maas days, the Yankees on MSG, the Bruce Coslet era, and the Spring of ’94.

E-Mail: robsabo10@elitesportsny.com