ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka didn’t see it coming.
And the righthander didn’t mind saying so.
“I think it was similar to how everybody else, including you guys, reacted. Pretty surprised,” Tanaka said with a smile Saturday afternoon.
About an hour earlier, Aaron Boone had informed Tanaka that he had been added to the American League All-Star roster, replacing Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman, who has a pectoral strain.
Tanaka has been more good than not this season, but the numbers haven’t been overwhelming – 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA.
“I was just surprised because I never thought that I would be selected,” he said through his translator. “You kind of look at your stats and things like that and you feel like [you won’t get picked]. I was already making plans on what to do for the All-Star break, so that’s why I was surprised.”
This is Tanaka’s second All-Star bid, the first coming in his rookie season of 2014. But just before that season’s game in Minneapolis — Derek Jeter’s final All-Star appearance — Tanaka was diagnosed with a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and did not attend the festivities.
“Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted to, and I wasn’t able to go there, but this time around I get to actually go there and be part of the celebration, so all in all, I’m very happy about it,” Tanaka said. “It’ll be a great thing if I can actually pitch in the game. When you look at your baseball career, it’ll be something I can be proud of.”
Tanaka has struck out 90 in 105 innings and has allowed 16 home runs in his 18 starts. His stuff has been up and down, especially his splitter, a pitch that is among the best in the game when he is at his best.
Boone said it speaks well of Tanaka that he has been effective without consistency from that pitch.
“It shows just how good at his craft he is,” he said. “He’s been searching for stuff throughout the year, yet time and time again, more often than not, he’s gone out and delivered. One of the big reasons we are in a good position here as we get ready to end the first half is a guy like Masa that’s gone out there and more often than not pitched really well for us. It’s a tribute to how talented he is.”
Tanaka’s addition gives the Yankees five All-Stars who will be in Cleveland this coming week. He joins DJ LeMahieu and Gary Sanchez, who were voted in as starters, along with Aroldis Chapman and Gleyber Torres, who was an injury replacement.
“Aside from me going, there’s no surprise that the other four are going,” Tanaka said, smiling again. “It’s well deserved that they’re going.”