In a game televised live in the early-morning hours in Japan and that took place in front of a packed house at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the 25-year-old Tanaka also allowed a pair of singles in his 31-pitch outing.
"I was nervous, but it was a good nervous," said Tanaka, who was most pleased he didn't walk anyone.
The Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract in hopes that he can be a young anchor in their rotation for seasons to come. Even though the team has made a concerted effort to limit the expectations and distractions for the right-hander, it hasn't been able to dim the spotlight over two continents.
Saturday was no different. When Tanaka stepped to the mound to begin the fifth, he received a loud ovation with many of the fans standing. He quickly got up 0-2 before allowing a lined single to Darin Ruf on a 94 mph fastball.
Tanaka retired the next two batters on fly balls before ending the inning by unleashing another 94 mph fastball, on a 3-2 pitch, on which Cesar Hernandez swung and missed.
To start the sixth, Tanaka struck out Ben Revere on three pitches, finishing off the center fielder with his renowned splitter that dropped late.
"That split is dirty," Yankees teammate CC Sabathia said.
Tanaka's 31 pitches were four fewer than the Yankees had allotted for him. His catcher, Francisco Cervelli, said that Tanaka seemed calm, like he had pitched in the majors before, while manager Joe Girardi thought it was important for Tanaka to put the first outing behind him.
"It is the place probably where he is at the most peace," Girardi said. "Not having to answer questions. He is able to do his work. I think it was important for him to get it under his belt. Next time, he will be a starter."
Girardi was unsure when Tanaka will pitch next.
The spring training game began at 3 a.m. Sunday in Japan, but that did not stop TV stations there from broadcasting the contest, which featured Tanaka alongside others Japanese greats from the present and past.
Kuroda said it was probably the most watched spring training game in Japan's history.
The focus on Tanaka's first exhibition pitches as a Yankee made slimmed-down Sabathia's first preseason start and Derek Jeter's second appearance of the spring part of the day's undercard. It is very unusual for the retiring Jeter not to be the main event.
"I had to do a lot of things to get him under the radar," Girardi said.
During his appearance, #TanakaTime was trending in New York on Twitter.
Tanaka's every move has been monitored since he signed his lucrative deal with the Yankees in January.