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Tanaka Tuesday! Yankees Introduce High-Priced Japanese Ace In Bronx

Mysterious Right-Hander Knows He Has A Lot To Prove After Signing $155M Deal
Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, left, shakes hands with Yankees manager Joe Girardi during his introductory press conference in the Bronx on Feb. 11, 2014. (Photo: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, left, shakes hands with Yankees manager Joe Girardi during his introductory press conference in the Bronx on Feb. 11, 2014. (Photo: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It looks like Masahiro Tanaka is already well-versed in the Yankees’ mission statement.

The Japanese phenom pulled on New York’s iconic pinstripes for the first time Tuesday afternoon during his formal introduction in the Bronx, and he sounded like he’ll fit right in. His general manager and manager couldn’t disguise their excitement.

“This would make The Boss proud,” GM Brian Cashman said. “This is Yankee big. This is Steinbrenner big.”

“He’s a great pitcher, and he’s obviously here for a long time. So we’re very, very excited,” skipper Joe Girardi said.

Tanaka will wear No. 19 for the Yankees.

“Hello, my name is Masahiro Tanaka. I’m very happy to be a Yankee,” Tanaka said in English.

The 25-year-old right-hander signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees last month.

Tanaka said through a translator he’s aware of the expectations many have for him, but added his top goal is “to win the world championship,” then adding, “I feel ready. … Now that I’m here and wearing this uniform, I really feel that I have become a member of the New York Yankees.”

When asked which players he’s looking forward to facing in the majors he said, “I have not faced anybody here, so I’m looking forward to facing anybody.”

Tanaka said he chose to sign with the Yankees because he “just wanted to to put myself through in this environment and try to see where I can get to with my ability.”

Of late, Tanaka has acted like he’s meant for the bright lights of New York, reportedly spending nearly $200,000 to charter a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Tokyo to New York. The plane usually seats around 200 people, but Tanaka’s flight included just him, his wife, his wife’s poodle and a few companions.

“It’s a (chartered) private jet,” Tanaka told reporters at Japan’s Narita Airport on Sunday, according to the New York Post. “It’s not something the Yankees have prepared.”

Tanaka admitted Tuesday chartering the airliner was “a little too big maybe.”

Tanaka’s contract includes a full no-trade clause and an option to opt out after the 2017 season. The Yankees owe a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Tanaka went a perfect 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts for Rakuten in 2013. He is said to have one of the best splitters around. Ex-Yankee Darrell Rasner, who was a teammate of Tanaka’s with the Golden Eagles, raved about the pitcher’s makeup to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti.

“He throws a curveball, a slider, a cutter, a sinker, a changeup,” Rasner said. “He really has too many pitches. It’s just a matter of a pitching coach getting a hold of him, whittling those down to four quality pitches.

“And he can do that I think. He’s very coachable.”

Tanaka will join CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova in the rotation, replacing retired left-hander Andy Pettitte. Cashman recently tempered expectations, saying the Yankees were hoping the Japanese ace would become “a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter.”

“Everything will be new and challenging,” Tanaka said last month. “But I have to rely on the ability that got me this far.”

The Yankees went 85-77 in 2013, missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years. And they haven’t been afraid to splash the cash this offseason, also signing catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.

“Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves,” Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in January.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Yankees camp in Tampa later this week.

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