The Yankees can breathe a sigh of relief. Righthander Masahiro Tanaka said Monday that he will not take part in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Tanaka, a member of the Japanese team that won the 2009 WBC and a participant for his home nation in 2013, said “it’s quite difficult to take part,” according to Kyodo News.
“Considering all the circumstances, I’ve made the choice to not participate,” he said at an event in Japan.
Tanaka went 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 games last year but did not make his last scheduled start because of a minor flexor mass strain in his right forearm.
The comments represented a change from October, when Japanese news outlets quoted Tanaka as saying he hoped to play in the WBC, which is sanctioned by Major League Baseball and the Players Association.
Although clubs generally do not want their players to participate — injuries are the overwhelming concern, and the reason many players choose not to play on their own— teams cannot expressly forbid it. The 2017 WBC will be played from March 6-22.
Tanaka, 28, has gone 39-16 with a 3.12 ERA in three seasons since signing a seven-year, $155-million contract with the Yankees. He has an out clause in the deal that he can exercise after this season.
Tanaka has yet to make it through a season injury-free. He was diagnosed with a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in July 2014 that has not required surgery. Although he was scratched at the end of the season, he is expected to enter spring training healthy. Still, the Yankees are likely to bring him along slowly, and that schedule would have been disrupted by his participation in the WBC.