Tag Archives: New York Yankees

The practice of Tanaka

Playing in his first game action since returning to the Rakuten Eagles after seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka allowed three runs over two innings in a practice game against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Tanaka allowed four hits in the first, including a three-run home run to Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, and worked a 1-2-3 second although he said the quality of his pitches didn’t vary much from one inning to the other.

Probably more interesting than his two innings were his answers to reporters questions below.

Masahiro Tanaka’s first practice game since returning to the Rakuten Eagles

Zen practice

Here’s my translation of Tanaka’s postgame Q&A after the game as reported by Sponichi Annex:

  • –There were no fans in the stands.
  • Tanaka: “It’s pretty lonely without fans.”
  • You said you felt just felt strong today.
  • Tanaka: “I had more velocity than I thought I would. In regards to that I threw close to 40 pitches over two innings in a game, so it was an extremely good first step.”
  • –How was your feel for your pitches facing batters for the first time?
  • Tanaka: “Overall, I think I have a lot to do. There are a lot of specific areas where I have lot of work to do.”
  • “Going forward in bullpens and so on I want to work on the issues I need to address from today, considering the way I got burned, and make corrections.”
  • –It was your first time facing Nakata in a long time.
  • Tanaka: “And he hit a home run off me. Just now I saw him behind the stands and he said, ‘Oh Tanaka, it’s been a long time hasn’t it,’ with a big smile on his face. It was the kind of greeting you can get away with from a position of strength.”
  • –So you want to face him during the season?
  • Tanaka: “Of course, yes.”
  • –Going forward, how are you going to raise your game as you approach Opening Day (March 26).
  • Tanaka: “I’ve been saying from the start, there’s not just one thing, but today was my first time against hitters, so I’m thinking I need to get better little by little each time.”
  • –Is one issue the command of your breaking pitches?
  • Tanaka: “Of course that’s an issue with breaking balls, but that also goes for the fastball. I could sense that I am still in the adjustment-making phase.”
  • –You got Yuki James Nomura out on a high fastball. Was that according to plan?
  • Tanaka: “Well that’s one way. That certainly worked well. I was able to put that ball where I wanted it, and if I do that I hope I can get outs. Unfortunately, my command is not really there yet. The biggest issue has to do with my mechanics, but today I was feeling a lot of different things. It’s a question of whether you can resolve some issues in the bullpen. I think the thing is to just keep putting in the work.”
  • –Did you throw your cutter or two-seamer?
  • Tanaka: “I did not: curve, slider, split.”
  • –How was your feel for your pitches?
  • Tanaka: “It was inconsistent most of the time.”
  • –You didn’t take the field until it was less than an hour before the start f the game. So you’re doing that the way you did in the States?
  • Tanaka: “Right. I haven’t changed from that. Today I went out about 12:10 or 12:15 (for a 1 p.m. start). That’s usual. I didn’t do it that way when I was in Japan (before), but it became my routine over there, and I feel like keeping that here.”
  • –Have you changed where you stand on the rubber?
  • Tanaka: “No. It’s been the same all along.”
  • –You looked like you were concerned about your footing on the mound. Was it different from the bullpen mound?
  • Tanaka: “No. They feel the same. The mound in the bullpen and the mound in the game feel the same, but in a game, you’ve got this game energy and you need to harness it, so that makes it different from the bullpen. No. 1, that was how I threw today, and the big thing was taking in all those different sensations.”
  • –You touched 148 kph (92 mph). How did that feel?
  • Tanaka: “In the seven years since I went to America, I’d never thrown anything but bullpens by this time of the year, so taking that into account, I think I did well. Also, because I’ve been itching to soak up so many things as quickly as I can, in that way I faced batters for the first time today, but most of all I wanted to take in all those different sensations of a real game. It meant something to be allowed to take the mound. Everything was a learning experience.”
  • –Is it your hope that you can pitch in one more game while the team is in Okinawa?
  • Tanaka: “Looking at the schedule, I suppose it will turn out like that, but you better wait for the skipper to announce that, since what a player says is kind of… you know.”

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Masa’s home

Masahiro Tanaka spoke to the Japanese media on Saturday, and said that while he’s got unfinished business in the majors, he had hoped to play again in Japan and not at the biter end of his career. When his first choice, a return to the New York Yankees was not in the cards, Tanaka said he struggled and struggled and only resolved his dilemma by thinking what he wanted to do most.

Read the Kyodo News (English) story .

Although Tanaka said he turned down very good offers from other major league clubs, he had a chance to return to the northeastern Japan city of Sendai in the center of a region devastated 10 years ago on March 11, 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami.

Here’s a translated transcript of Tanaka’s answers at the press conference held in Tokyo on Jan. 30. Also in attendance were the team’s owner, Hiroshi Mikitani, the team president Yozo Tachibana, and Kazuhisa Ishii, the team’s GM and manager.

Opening remarks

Seven years, when went I wanted to challenge myself in the major leagues, the owner, Mr. Mikitani, allowed me to go. And now he has allowed me to come back, so I am extremely grateful to him.

Mr. Tachibana always stayed in touch, and allowed me to use the team’s facilities however I liked. You may not know this but behind the scenes he is the kind of team president who uses pretty harsh language, but even so I’m always appreciative of him.

“The GM and manager, Mr. Ishii, appealed to me, saying we absolutely need you. And that kind of public statement is big for a player.”

“This is the 10th year since the disaster, but also the first year I’ve been a free agent with the ability to choose my team. For me, that No. 10 was an important figure, and gave this timing special meaning. That led me toward this decision.”

“At the instant I became a free agent, truthfully, my desire was to re-sign with the Yankees and continue playing for them. But at a very early stage, I heard from them through my agent and felt it would be better if I considered other options, which I considered, including a return to Japan.”

“Honestly, I was suddenly thinking of things I had never ever thought of before, and it was really troubling. What got me out of that conundrum was asking how I want to play baseball and in what circumstances do I want to play. There were offers, and I guess those details will come out. But things are difficult right now in this pandemic world.”

“I played over there for seven years, and was told how much I was valued, and received really good offers. But for me there was also this chance, to play for the Eagles again, to pitch once more in front of my fellow Japanese and in the end, there was no offer that could surpass that.”

Questions and answers

–Seven years ago, did you imagine this day would come?

Tanaka: “I was asked that then, but hate the idea that whatever I said might be misunderstood so I declined to answer. Of course, if the Rakuten Eagles hadn’t made this offer it wouldn’t matter what I thought. But there was the idea I might return and play for the Eagles again and not just at the end of my career, but when the time was right. So really, from the very start I so wanted to come back.”

Mr. Mikitani was asked if he kept Tanaka’s No. 18 unused in case of his return. He said that was not only his desire, but that of the organization and the people of the Tohoku region.

What does the No. 18 mean for you?

Tanaka: The number has meaning for a pro, and that’s the one I was handed at the start of my career, so being the ace number, it has meaning for me. But rather than just wearing the number, I want to get results and set an example.

You settled on a two-year contract. Why?

Tanaka: “We agreed on a two-year contract, but I received assurance we would talk after the season, and see where to go from there. I certainly can’t tell at this stage. Also, I feel I have unfinished business in America, and I haven’t given up on that, so they agreed on terms that would keep those options open. But without throwing away those goals, I really want to win a Japan championship here. But there are no guarantees in this world, so my first goal is to give it all I have for this season.”

What are your thoughts about the Tokyo Olympics?

Tanaka: “I had thought it would be 2020, so I never thought I could play in. Then it was postponed, and now I have returned to Japan, so there is a chance to play. If I’m selected, I want to play. I competed at the Beijing Olympics and that ended in frustrating fashion. Then baseball was dropped from the Olympic program. But it’s back now and I want to win a gold medal.”

It was said you are going to report to camp prior to the first exhibition game. What kind of training will you be doing until then?

Tanaka: “In my mind there are so many adjustments I need to make, the ball, the mound and so many things. Practice, life off the field, so many things are different so I’ll deal with them as they come along.”

How do you see yourself helping out now that you are back in the disaster-hit region?

Tanaka: “Like everyone else here, I also want to do my best. But now that I am close by again, there may be many things I can do, and I want to do my best in whatever way I can. To start with, I want to work hard and make an effort so that people will see me at the ballpark, on the mound, doing well.”

Who do you want to face in the Pacific League?

Tanaka: “I’ve been away for seven years, and so many batters have come up that I’ve never faced, so it’s hard for me to say by name, but there definitely are some tremendous players, and I’m looking forward to playing against them.”

SoftBank’s Yuki Yanagita said he disliked the idea of facing you…

Tanaka: “Yangita and I are the same age. I saw that story but we haven’t spoken. I faced him and he batted .500 off me, so I think that’s probably just lip service on his part.”

Both you and manager Ishii began their pro careers under manager Katsuya Nomura. Do you feel this is fate?

Tanaka: “Honestly, I never thought about it. But when you mention it, both he (Ishii) and I played in the States, played the same position as pitchers, so I there will be things I need to adjust to that he can advise me on.”

Manager Ishii?

Ishii: “I still have more career wins than he does (184-177). When he gets his wins, then I’ll say, ‘Hey, Masahiro.’ Until then, I’ll call him ‘Tanaka-kun’ (young mister Tanaka).'”

Eight years ago, you played catch with your former manager Nomura just before you left for the States. Now that you’re back what memories do you have of him?

Tanaka: “At that time I felt he was the last person to catch me in Japan. Nomura was my first pro manager, and I have so many deep emotions regarding him.”

Is there something manager Nomura taught you that sticks with you?

Tanaka: “First of all it’s essential to remember that the pitcher is the starting point, and that stays with me, and I still practice to execute pitches low in the zone.”

Did anything overseas match the Eagles’ 2013 Japan Series championship for emotional impact?

Tanaka: “Over there is different so one can’t really compare, but the excitement and sense of reward is the same as here. I don’t compare those emotions, but the 2013 championship remains a highlight of my career. Even though I spent seven years playing abroad in America, I have a video I watch before every start to psyche myself up and raise my concentration, and someone included in that the instant when we became Japan champions.”

What would you like to report to your late managers, Nomura, and (Senichi) Hoshino. What would you’d like to say to them?

Tanaka: “I suppose right now, I’d say, ‘I’m back.’ The best thing would be to report to them at the end of the year that we are champions.”

We get the impression here that there is so much information available to players in the majors. Is there anything you learned there you would like to employ here?

Tanaka: “Before I answer, I have to say that my knowledge of where Japan is stopped seven years ago. So I can’t say. But there’s no mistaking the volume of available data over there is amazing, and both batters and pitchers make use of it.”

“For me personally, prior to the 2017 season I had looked at how batters responded to different pitches, what they were waiting for, what they were swinging at. But there came a turning point in the 2017 season, when I went through a really trying time, and thought I needed to look deeper into the data, and from then it became more central to my approach.”

Are there any individual titles or numerical targets you are obsessed with getting?

Tanaka: “The title I am obsessed with is winning the Japan championship. If I pitch well, good numeric results will come with that, but honestly trying to surpass that impressive 2013 season that remains stopped in time, frozen in everyone’s memory, is a worthy quest, so I want to contribute to as many wins as I can in that pursuit.”

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Tanaka coming home

2-year, $17 million

Masahiro Tanaka will return to the Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League for the 2021 season on a two-year deal worth a reported 900 million ($8.6 million) Kyodo News (Japanese) reported after the club announced the signing.

Because Japanese contracts are not made public, their value is subject to speculation. This month, Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano reportedly signed for 800 million after he declined offers to sign with an MLB club via the posting system. That figure is being touted as a record for Japanese pro ball, but it’s not verifiable.

In a tweet that included a picture of him looking over the Eagles’ home ballpark while wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned on the back with “New York,” Tanaka said:

“At this time, I’ve accepted a contract from the Rakuten Eagles. I’d like to let you know my feelings and what led to this decision to play in Japan at the press conference we have planned.”

–Masahiro Tanaka

Eagles General Manager Kazuhisa Ishii confirmed Tuesday according to Kyodo News (Japanese) that talks have been proceeding but that nothing official has been offered. However, a Sponichi Annex story on Wednesday reported the team has already offered Tanaka a one-year contract, and that further details, including additional years, are now being hammered out.

Speaking to media this week, Ishii told reporters that the No. 18, typically associated with being an ace pitcher in Japan was Tanaka’s right.

“The Eagles’ No. 18 belongs to no one else but Tanaka,” Ishii said.

Tanaka turned pro with the Eagles out of high school. He won 28-straight regular season decisions from 2012 through the end of the 2013 season. After Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish had each attracted $50-million posting of fees, Tanaka was poised to earn the Eagles a windfall of perhaps twice that much until MLB backed out of the posting agreement and capped the Eagles’ fee at $20 million.

Tanaka, stung by that, suggested he contribute to the team financially for which he was rebuked by MLB for a potential violation of the posting agreement terms. Since he moved to the New York Yankees in 2014, he has trained each winter at the Eagles’ facility.

When the pandemic shut down MLB’s training camps last March, Tanaka remained in Florida with his family, but returned abruptly to Japan, suggesting only that the move was out of concern for his family’s safety — both from the virus and other issues.

Read Kyodo News’ English story.

With spring training due to start in Japan’ on Monday, Feb. 1, Ishii said according to the Kyodo story that Tanaka would likely arrive in camp prior to the start of the first preseason game on Feb. 23

Tanaka will be in store for some of the added pressure that dogged the Eagles in 2011, after much of the region was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left in excess of 15,000 dead and triggered a nuclear disaster.

The story was first reported by Sankei Sports, which said that team president Yozo Tachibana had been involved.

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Tanaka likely returning to Japan: Report

Free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka may be closer to moving back to Japan for the 2021 season than previously expected, Sponichi Annex reported Wednesday citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Eagles General Manager Kazuhisa Ishii confirmed according to Kyodo News (Japanese) that talks have been proceeding but that nothing official has been offered. However, the Sponichi Annex story reports the team has already offered Tanaka a one-year contract, and that further details, including additional years, are now being hammered out and that there is a strong possibility he will sign with his first pro team this week.

Tanaka turned pro with the Eagles out of high school. He won 28-straight regular season decisions from 2012 through the end of the 2013 season. After Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish had each attracted $50-million posting of fees, Tanaka was poised to earn the Eagles a windfall of perhaps twice that much until MLB backed out of the posting agreement and capped the Eagles’ fee at $20 million.

Tanaka, stung by that, suggested he contribute to the team financially for which he was rebuked by MLB for a potential violation of the posting agreement terms. Since he moved to the New York Yankees in 2014, he has trained each winter at the Eagles’ facility.

When the pandemic shut down MLB’s training camps last March, Tanaka remained in Florida with his family, but returned abruptly to Japan, suggesting only that the move was out of concern for his family’s safety — both from the virus and other issues.

With spring training due to start in Japan’ on Feb. 1, a concrete offer from the Eagles would dramatically change the dynamic of Tanaka’s negotiations with prospective MLB suitors.

Should Tanaka return to Sendai, he will be in store for some of the added pressure that dogged the Eagles in 2011, after much of the region was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left over 15,000 dead and triggered a nuclear disaster.

The story was first reported by Sankei Sports, which said that team president Yozo Tachibana had been involved.

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Eagles GM confirms Tanaka Talks

Rakuten Eagles General Manager Kazuhisa Ishii confirmed Wednesday that his team has been talking with 32-year-old free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka about a return to the Pacific League club, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.

Ishii, who will also manage the club based in the northeastern Japanese city of Sendai, said that the sides had not arrived at precise figures for discussion.

“We don’t know what he will decide, but we are communicating with him and whatever way he wants to go, we support that,” Ishii told Japanese media.

Tanaka turned pro with the Eagles out of high school. He won 28-straight regular season decisions from 2012 through the end of the 2013 season. After Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish had each attracted $50-million posting of fees, Tanaka was poised to earn the Eagles a windfall of perhaps twice that much until MLB backed out of the posting agreement and capped the Eagles’ fee at $20 million.

Tanaka, stung by that, suggested he contribute to the team financially for which he was rebuked by MLB for a potential violation of the posting agreement terms. Since he moved to the New York Yankees in 2014, he has trained each winter at the Eagles’ facility.

When the pandemic shut down MLB’s training camps last March, Tanaka remained in Florida with his family, but returned abruptly to Japan, suggesting only that the move was out of concern for his family’s safety — both from the virus and other issues.

With spring training due to start in Japan’ on Feb. 1, a concrete offer from the Eagles would dramatically change the dynamic of Tanaka’s negotiations with prospective MLB suitors.

Should Tanaka return to Sendai, he will be in store for some of the added pressure that dogged the Eagles in 2011, after much of the region was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left over 15,000 dead and triggered a nuclear disaster.

The story was first reported by Sankei Sports, which said that team president Yozo Tachibana had been involved.

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Eagles to make formal offer to Tanaka

The Rakuten Eagles will make a concrete offer this week to their former ace, Masahiro Tanaka, Sankei Sports reported Tuesday, citing a source.

According to Sanspo, the sides have spoken repeatedly and while major league teams have expressed interest in the former Yankee, the Eagles appear to be the leading contender to land the 32-year-old free agent, who last pitched for them in 2013.

The news comes just six days before the Eagles begin spring training in Okinawa.

Tanaka, who won 28 consecutive regular-season decisions from 2012 to the end of the 2013 season, often trains at the Sendai-based Pacific League club’s facilities.

The 2021 season will be an emotional one for the Eagles, coming 10 years after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan and killed nearly 15,899 with over 2,500 still listed as missing. The Eagles’ home park was seriously damaged in the earthquake, while the following tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster.

Although Japan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been better than that in the U.S., Japan has yet to even approve any vaccines, and much of the country is once more in a state of emergency. Imported players who do not currently possess Japanese residence permits are currently unable to enter the country.

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