Masahiro Tanaka wants to win over Yankees fans with his pitching
It wasn't that the Yankees offered him the most money, Masahiro Tanaka said Thursday in his first comments since signing a seven-year, $155-million contract to play in pinstripes.
"They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team," Tanaka said at a news conference in Japan, according to The Associated Press.
The 25-year-old righthander agreed to the contract early Wednesday morning as the Yankees outbid at least five other teams. Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013. The Yankees hope he can help put them back in the postseason after a one-year absence.
Tanaka said he is "relieved" that the negotiations are complete. Asked what his goal is, he replied: "To become world champions . . . I can't wait to get to the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium."
Tanaka also was asked if he had a message for Yankees fans in English.
"I don't speak English," he said, "so I'll just have to win the trust and confidence of the fans with my performance on the field."
The Yankees have not announced when Tanaka will be introduced to fans in New York with a Yankee Stadium news conference.
Tanaka said he talked with major-league pitchers Takashi Saito and Yu Darvish about making the switch from Japan to the major leagues. Former Yankee Hideki Matsui also delivered a videotaped message to Tanaka to urge him to join the Yankees.
"Everything will be new and challenging," Tanaka said. "But I have to rely on the ability that got me this far."
Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1,315 innings. The Yankees, who have to pay a $20-million posting fee to Rakuten, have scouted Tanaka since 2007 and are confident they have signed a future ace.
Tanaka, according to a report on The New York Times website, talked about the transition to American baseball.
"In Japan, a bad pitch might end in a single, but at the majors, that could be a home run," he said. "The hitting power is different. And they're careful with pitch counts over there.
"It's not like I've never played ball before. I don't want to overthink it."
Tanaka led Rakuten to the Japan Series championship last season by throwing 160 pitches in Game 6 and coming out of the bullpen the next day. He also has appeared in the Olympics in 2008 and two World Baseball Classic tournaments (2009 and 2013).
"He thrives on the biggest stage," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday. "Hopefully that is one of the reasons he chose us. He's just gotten better and better, and with the competition, whether the playoffs or the WBC, it seemed like the bigger the game, the more he would step up."
According to the Times, Tanaka said he has been to New York only once.
"I really don't know anything at all," he said. "I've only been there once, and I don't remember much, just that the weather wasn't good. I'd better start looking up what it's really like."