Jackie Robinson tributes highlight Cubs-Yankees opener

(SportsNetwork.com) - New York pays tribute to not only Jackie Robinson on Tuesday, but also Nelson Mandela, as the Yankees begin a brief two-game series with the Chicago Cubs in the Bronx.

Yankee Stadium will serve as the centerpiece to Jackie Robinson Day, celebrating the 67th anniversary of him breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

This year's celebration will have an even larger reach though, as the Yankees will also unveil a plaque to honor Mandela on Tuesday.

Many Major League Baseball luminaries, as well as members of the Robinson family and Mandela's grandson, Zondwa Mandela, will be present at the stadium, and the Yankees said that South African Consul General George Monyemangene and Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang will also attend.

Players on both teams will also wear Robinson's No. 42.

"Jackie Robinson is an American icon whose accomplishments and leadership continue to inspire us in Baseball and our society at large," Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said. "Major League Baseball proudly celebrates his enduring legacy, which is reflected by extraordinary on-field diversity of players from all backgrounds, enthusiastic participation in youth baseball and softball, and proven results in diverse business efforts."

Once the game begins New York will hand the ball to Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, who has been as good as advertised through two starts for the Yankees, going 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA. His only mistake against Baltimore on Wednesday was a three-run home run in the second inning, but he still fanned 10 batters over seven innings.

"If you look at the first two starts, the beginning of the game, I'm missing my spots and giving up runs," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I need to make my adjustments, try not to do that. Try to keep the damage to a minimum -- or no damage at all -- at the beginning of the game."

Tanaka has allowed three runs in each outing, something he did just four times in 27 starts for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season. However, he has struck out 18 and walked one over 14 innings.

"I pride myself on not giving in after giving up runs," Tanaka said. "From the time when I was in Japan, I would always think that if I gave up a run, I would think to myself that I'm not going to give up any more runs."

Chicago will counter with righty Jason Hammel, who will be going after his third straight win. Hammel beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, holding them to three runs and three hits in seven innings to run his record to 2-0 to go along with a 2.63 ERA.

Hammel has faced the Yankees 17 times (11 starts) and is 3-3 against them with a 5.17 ERA.

"They're a perennial powerhouse and find a way to win, and the organization is committed to their players. That's how they do it," Hammel said. "That being said, there's still a way to beat them. I've faced them many times and had some success. You just have to keep the ball down there."

While the Yankees took three of four from Boston over the weekend, the Cubs have lost three of four.

New York, though, has some injury concerns, as Derek Jeter is nursing a tight quadriceps, while Francisco Cervelli (hamstring) is likely headed to the disabled list. Also, catcher Brian McCann is day-to-day with a bruised right hand.

The Yankees took two of three from the Cubs the last time these clubs met back in 2011. They also swept the Cubs in their other visit to the Bronx in 2005.

04/15 11:05:27 ET