Masahiro Tanaka dials it up in spring training drills

The Yankees ace is getting ready to make his third consecutive Opening Day start

On April 2, 2017, the New York Yankees will hand the ball to Japanese-born ace Masahiro Tanaka to make his third straight Opening Day start.

Manager Joe Girardi confirmed as much in his opening press conference earlier this week, which took place at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.

A year ago, Tanaka was a steady stalwart for New York, posting career-highs in innings pitched (199 2/3), wins (14), strikeouts (165), and starts (31).

His 3.07 ERA was the third-lowest among qualified AL starters, and his home run ratio dropped from 1.5 HR/9 in 2015, to 1.0 HR/9 in 2016.

Though it seems that the debate over whether or not Tanaka is a true "ace" never ceases, he put to bed most of those questions with his stellar season last year in the Bronx. Girardi will be expecting more of the same from his dynamic righty hurler entering his fourth MLB season, as New York's playoff hopes will hinge on his ability to perform like an ace once again.

On Tuesday, Yankees pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa to usher in another season, and Tanaka was putting his stuff on full display this week for fans and media to see. 

YES Network's Jack Curry was on hand to catch some of Tanaka's bullpen session, which you can watch in the video below.

Some analytics projections expect another strong season for the Yankees ace in 2017, while others predict a regression to the mean. According to FanGraphs ZiPS predictions, Tanaka projects to post a 3.64 ERA over 27 starts, while compiling a stellar 4.5% walk rate (150 K/31 BB). 

Perhaps those projections are foreseeing a possible six-man rotation situation unfolding for the Yankees, which would allow Tanaka to adjust more to a familiar schedule of pitching every six days, rather than every five. There have been no concrete indications that the Yankees are toying with this idea yet, but it's something that's lingered throughout conversations about Tanaka, who spent his first seven years as a professional baseball player in Japan.

Check out more of Curry's first-hand videos on Aroldis Chapman and Gary Sanchez's first week of Yankees camp by clicking the link here, and follow YES Network for all the latest news and developments from Tampa.