NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka has arrived in the United States, but before he meets his new teammates in Florida at Spring Training, the prized right-hander had his first chance to try on the pinstripes at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees held a news conference on Tuesday to introduce Tanaka to a global media audience.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine, general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and COO Lonn Trost were all in attendance for what Cashman called the largest news conference at the new Yankee Stadium and the largest in the Bronx since the club welcomed Hideki Matsui in 2003.
“This is big. This is something I was thinking as I was driving in today, that this would make the Boss proud,” Cashman said, referring to the late George Steinbrenner. “The Yankees, obviously, are always about trying to acquire the best talent and talent that can compete for a championship, but he also liked the attention. And this certainly draws a lot of attention. This is Yankee big, this is Steinbrenner big.”
Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees on Jan. 22, and he recently received his visa, guaranteeing that he will be able to report to Spring Training on time.
The 25-year-old had been working out in Sendai, Japan, since signing his contract. Yanks pitchers and catchers are due to report in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, with their first workout scheduled for Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The right-hander first announced his presence in English — “Hello. My name is Masahiro Tanaka. I’m very happy to be a Yankee.” — before taking questions from a large contingent of reporters that hailed from across the world. He said his No. 1 goal in pinstripes is to win a World Series.
“Now that I’m here and wearing this uniform, I really feel that I have become a member of the New York Yankees,” Tanaka said through a translator.
Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League, ending his Nippon Professional Baseball career by celebrating Rakuten’s first Japan Series title.
Tanaka will likely slot behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda in a rotation that also projects to include Ivan Nova and a spring competition for the fifth spot, with Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren vying for that assignment.