Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka became the Yankees’ Valentine this year after agreeing to a seven-year $155 million contract two weeks ago. Tanaka arrived in New York on Monday after reportedly paying $195,000 (that’s American money if your wondering) to charter a 787 Japan Airlines jet for him and his wife, Japanese pop singer Mai Satoda, three other friends and his poodle. Oh yea, he’s Steinbrenner-ish already. On Tuesday afternoon, Tanaka was introduced by the New York Yankees in front of nearly 200 members of the media, the franchise’s largest news conference in over 10 years. Tanaka speaks limited English, but when Yankee skipper Joe Girardi handed him his no. 19 jersey and cap, he stepped up to the podium. “Hello, my name is Masahiro Tanaka, I’m very happy to be a Yankee.”
The 25-year-old righty comes with extremely high expectations after posting a 24-0 record to go along with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese league last year. One of his best pitches is his splitter, which many scouts say can be one of the best in baseball. Although it looks like a promising signing for the pinstripes, there will be a lot of adjustments for him to adapt to. Aside from the cultural differences, baseballs are larger here in the States. He will also have to get used to a lesser load and get adapted to pitching every five days as opposed to pitching once a week. Japanese pitchers reportedly average nearly 140 pitches per start as opposed to starting pitchers here in the States average about 90-95 pitches per start. The Yanks will have an eye on his pitch count for sure. The Yankees have had two pitchers from Japan before that carried high expectations. The late Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were both huge disappointments. Tanaka is looking to rewrite a new chapter on that.
Tanaka will join a rotation that includes C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda. The fifth starter will be a competition between Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren. By now, Tanaka should know how bad this town can turn on him if he doesn’t play up to the big contract, however, if he can succeed the way Rangers pitcher and fellow countryman Yu Darvich has in Texas, the Bronx, as well as the rest of New York will embrace him just the way they did for Hideki Matsui. Tanaka will head to Florida for camp where pitchers and catchers will report. If George Steinbrenner were alive, he’d have hearts in his eyes.
§Sports Notes: (Basketball) The Brooklyn Nets finish up the first half of the season on the road tonight against the Chicago Bulls. Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson will be competing in Saturday night’s 3-point contest. As we go to press, the Knicks have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Rumors have been heating up that coach Mike Woodson is a few losses away from losing his job. I would like to send my congrats to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. On Sunday, Sam shared his story and is now an openly gay athlete. Sam can become the first openly gay player in professional sports. It takes true courage and guts to come out and be proud of who you are. Some people can’t say that about themselves. We should all judge him by his character and his performance on the football field, not because of his sexuality. In my eyes, he is the epitome of a leader! I think it’s about that time for the Knicks to explore trade options for Carmelo Anthony if they feel he will leave via free agency. What do you all think Our Time readers? E-mail me at castroeddie714@Gmail.com and tell me your thoughts. Have a safe and lovely Valentine’s Day!