Focused Tanaka continues to get acclimated
Darvish jokes about countryman's deal; Yankees hurler impresses again in bullpen
TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka hasn't talked much about the details of the seven-year, $155 million contract that he scored this past offseason, except to say that he is very happy to have landed with the Yankees.
Yu Darvish, who made the move from Japan to the United States two winters ago, couldn't help but notice the huge commitment. The Rangers right-hander told reporters on Tuesday in Surprise, Ariz., that he believes his own success probably had some impact on the negotiations.
"I don't know too much about the new posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him too much," Darvish said with a smile and a laugh. "I think [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Hisashi] Iwakuma and I really helped him as far how the scouts and teams evaluated him."
Darvish later clarified his remarks via Twitter, saying, "Everybody at the press conference knows that I was just joking." Darvish added that he would not be talking about Tanaka anymore.
The Rangers righty signed a six-year, $60 million deal with Texas in January 2012, a deal that came after the club won his negotiating rights from the Nippon Ham Fighters with a $51.7 million bid. Under a revised posting system that went into place this past winter, no team could bid more than $20 million for Tanaka's rights, and Tanaka was free to speak with any club that did so.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner authorized the deal, plus a $20 million posting fee payable to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, because the Yankees believe Tanaka will be a finishing touch in giving New York a championship-caliber roster.
Tanaka had departed George M. Steinbrenner Field by the time Darvish spoke to reporters in Arizona, but Darvish's comments probably won't do much to disrupt the Yankees pitcher's spring. Tanaka has been busy getting acclimated to life with the Bombers, saying that he has been knocking out what is left of his international jet lag.
Other than the highways between his hotel and Steinbrenner Field, the right-hander has not had time to explore much of Florida. So the question was asked: What has been the most fun Tanaka has had since coming to the United States?
"I think that would be pitching in the bullpen," Tanaka replied, through an interpreter. "Because I love to throw."
Tanaka threw 35 pitches off a bullpen mound on Tuesday, his third session since arriving for camp. He worked with catcher John Ryan Murphy after being caught by Francisco Cervelli the first two times.
"His fastball command was really good today," Murphy said. "Cervy told me it was the other day. Masahiro told me it was probably the best of the three bullpens he had thrown. The fastball command for me was really good inside and outside. I think his ability to forget a poor pitch and repeat a better pitch the next pitch was really impressive also.
"If he threw one poor pitch, he was back [throwing a good pitch] the next one. I think he threw four or five pitches up in the zone; that was it. He commanded all of his pitches. He's got a short memory on the bad pitches, and I think overall it was very, very good."
After the session, Tanaka and Murphy spoke about the signs that he had used in Japan. Tanaka used all of his pitches on Tuesday -- his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, splitter, curveball, slider, changeup and cutter -- and said that he'd like to begin his Major League career with the same repertoire that helped him compile a 24-0 record for Rakuten last year.
"For now, I would just like to be balancing everything out right now," said Tanaka, who has not been told when he will make his first spring start. "If I find something I need to work on more, I'll work on that during the bullpen session and maybe during catch."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. MLB.com reporter T.R. Sullivan contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.