TAMPA, Fla. (CBSNewYork) — Masahiro Tanaka sees the latest incarnation of the Yankees and can’t help but be confident.
The veteran right-hander spoke highly of his new-look club on Tuesday, the day before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to arrive at New York’s spring training home in Florida.
“Boston had the upper hand last season but, hopefully, we’ll get together as a team and then we’ll take that spot this year,” Tanaka said.
Despite winning 100 games last season, the Yankees still wound up second in the AL East behind the Red Sox. Boston beat New York in the Division Series and went on to its fourth World Series title in 15 seasons.
“It’s obviously a better team now,” Tanaka said. “The additions, it’s definitely going to help us out as a team. We have this good team now and I think that we have a real good chance of getting to where we want to be this year.”
The Yankees last won a World Series in 2009.
Luis Severino is expected to be the ace of the staff. After the 24-year-old right-hander, the Yankees arguably have three pitchers — Paxton, J.A. Happ and Tanaka — who can be viewed as a second or third starter. Currently, CC Sabathia is at the back end of the rotation, but the Bombers are expected to get young left-hander Jordan Montgomery back from Tommy John surgery at some point and could bring in a reinforcement or two as the season progresses.
Tanaka was the lone bright spot of the Yankees rotation last October, throwing five innings of one-run ball in a 6-2 triumph over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Since coming over from Japan in 2014, Tanaka has been a mainstay in a rotation that hasn’t always been as strong as it needs to be. The 30-year-old right-hander, who has two years left on his seven-year, $155 million contract, is coming off a 2018 regular season in which he went 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts.
Tanaka is 64-34 with a 3.59 ERA in 132 career starts.
“I look at it as I got to do my job,” Tanaka said. “And step up.”
Despite missing a month last season after hurting both hamstrings while running the bases during a June 8 game against the Mets, Tanaka said he wants to keep on hitting and running the bases at NL ballparks, hoping use of the designated hitter does not spread to the National League.
The players’ association has proposed extending the DH to the NL, a plan baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says is too complex to consider for this year.
“I did get injured, but when you look at it I grew up where baseball was played by nine guys, meaning basically the pitcher would hit also, and I really enjoyed that baseball,” Tanaka said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)