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Concerned about coronavirus, Masahiro Tanaka has returned to Japan

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws during spring training

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws during spring training in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 17. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

With the coronavirus continuing to sweep unabated across the United States, Masahiro Tanaka recently returned to his native Japan, a step he believes best protects his young family.

Tanaka and his wife, Mai, have a 4-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter. Using the word “danger” in a series of tweets Thursday morning, the Yankees righthander explained his decision to leave the country in late March (the ultra-private Tanaka did not provide the exact date of his departure).

“By entering Japan from the United States, where the infection of the new coronavirus is expanding, even though we currently have no symptoms, would you still infect someone without knowing it? Wouldn’t my family get infected? There were various thoughts,” Tanaka wrote, according to a translation provided by one of the Japanese reporters who covers the Yankees and the pitcher full-time.

“We are currently self-quarantined at home for two weeks, as requested by the Japanese government,” Tanaka wrote. “As a person [who] traveled from a foreign country, I will continue to take responsible actions.”

According to the Johns Hopkins Resource Center, as of Thursday afternoon, there were over 230,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States. According to Kyodo News in Japan, that country had a total of 3,482 confirmed cases as of Thursday but, as is the case in much of the world, the number is growing. 

According to a Kyodo News story published Thursday, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had not yet declared a state of emergency to combat the spread of the virus despite increasing pressure from many of the nation’s medical experts to do so.

"At this point, we have not seen infections spreading rapidly and widely across the country. We are just about holding the line," Abe said Thursday in Parliament, according to the Kyodo News story. "But if we lower our guard now even a little, infections could accelerate suddenly at any moment. We continue to be on the brink.”

Up until early last week, Tanaka, 31, was among the few Yankees players remaining in Tampa, and he sporadically made the trip to Steinbrenner Field to work out.

Major League Baseball officially suspended spring training March 13 — which seems a lifetime ago, given all that’s occurred across the world since then — and players on the Yankees' 40-man roster that morning voted unanimously to stay in Tampa to hold informal workouts at Steinbrenner Field.

But, no one needs to be told, news changed on an almost hourly basis regarding the virus and its spread, and it didn’t take long for Yankees players who did not have homes or apartments locally to begin a steady stream out of Tampa.

After two Yankees minor-leaguers tested positive in a four-day stretch,  the entire group of players in minor-league camp — roughly 150 — immediately was placed in quarantine along with most of the player development staff working at the minor-league complex (to date, the Yankees have had no other players or staff experience symptoms of the virus).

As of late last week, just a handful of players continued to show up at Steinbrenner Field three or four days a week, with even that small number of players staggering their workouts so they were not all at the ballpark at once.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ just-declared stay-at-home order, which goes into effect Friday, will further limit that number. Per the order, essentially only rehabbing players such as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luis Severino will  be allowed at the Yankees' spring training facility.

“After spring training was discontinued, there was a situation where I was in danger [with] the coronavirus infection while staying in Florida,” Tanaka wrote on Twitter. “I have decided to return home temporarily with deep caution.”

Yankees to help stadium workers. The  Yankees and New York City Football Club on Thursday announced a $1.4 million distress fund for stadium workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Full-time and part-time stadium staff will be eligible for the needs-based grant initiative, the organizations announced in a joint statement.

“Our hope is that these grants will provide a degree of assistance for those game day staff members impacted by this crisis, even though we recognize that the vast array of personal needs during this unprecedented time cannot be completely satisfied by these measures,” the Yankees and New York City Football Club said.

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