Yu Darvish worked out at Nippon Ham's Ni-gun training facilities in Kamagaya on Thursday. He tossed twenty-seven pitches to a standing catcher in the bullpen and told he reporters he felt good and that they should be able to see that if they watched. When asked about Masahiro Tanaka, he replied, "I am not Ma-kun, so please ask Ma-kun."
Source: Nikkan Sports 1/24/2014
Greg Maddux on Darvish, from ESPN's Richard Durrett:
... "The sky is the limit for him," Maddux said. "He's got four quality pitches. He's pitched now over here for two years. Hopefully, he's a lot more relaxed and Americanized, or however you want to say it. I think if he continues to be better and wants to be better, there's no telling how well he can do."
... "I think you have to figure it out on your own, and I think that's what he's doing and what he'll continue to do," Maddux said. "I can't really sit here and say I helped him. Every pitch he threw, he threw. Every good fastball and good slider he threw last year, he did that by himself. I think he's no different than most pitchers. I think if you can focus on the right things, I think you'll be able to make better pitches more consistently. I think sometimes we get away from that as players, and it's just good to be reminded sometimes on what the right things to concentrate on are."
Updates on Masahiro Tanaka from Friday, January 24, 2014.
- Tanaka worked out at Kobo Stadium today. He threw about thirty pitches in the bullpen. Tanaka is expected to continue his training in Sendai until the schedule for his trip to the United States is worked out. ... His high school, Komazawa Daigaku Fuzoku Tomakomai, will be competing in the Spring Koshien. [Sponichi 1/24/2014]
- According to Sponichi, it meant a lot to Tanaka that the Yankees sent a large contingent of people to meet him. The rest of the teams he met were about four to a group. The Yankees video presentation may have also been key. [Sponichi 1/24/2014]
- Sponichi wonders if the the Chicago Cubs drove up Tanaka's price for the Yankees. They also heard that Casey Close might have gotten the Yankees to agree to the opt-out by telling them other teams were willing to do it. [Sponichi 1/24/2014]
- Nineteen TV cameras and about 200 members of the media covered Tanaka's press conference on Thursday. A number of TV stations were broadcasting a live feed. CNN Japan was also there. ... Tanaka could head to the United States some time early next week. ... They will be taking their toy poodle, Haru (male, turned two on 12/27/2013), with them. [Sanspo 1/24/2014]
- Uniform number candidates might include fourteen, seventeen, nineteen, and twenty. [Nikkan Sports 1/24/2014] ... Or fourteen, seveteen, nineteen, and twenty-four. [Sanspo 1/24/2014]
- ZakZak is impressed with the patience Tanaka exercised throughout the whole process, beginning with whether or not the team was going to post him and right on down to the negotiation process. [ZakZak 1/24/2014]
- Tokyo Sports seems to think Boston might counter New York's move by going after Hiroshima's Kenta Maeda next year (if he gets posted). [Tokyo Sports 1/24/2014]
- Norichika Aoki's advice to Tanaka: play the role of the fool, do not be shy/afraid; do not rely on the interpreter; do not worry so much about English that it affects you (you are there to play baseball, not study English). [Sanspo 1/24/2014]
Details on Tanaka's contract:
- Tanaka's agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020, and it allows him to terminate the deal after the 2017 season and become a free agent. [Associated Press 1/23/2014]
- Interesting tidbit on new posting system: Per sources, the $20M fee will be paid in two installments - $13M the first year, $7M the second. [Ken Rosenthal tweet 1/8/2014 via River Ave Blues 1/7/2014]
- These deals always contain some fun perks. In addition to the huge salary, Tanaka also receives a $35k moving allowance, a $100k annual housing allowance to be used in New York or near the team’s Spring Training complex in Tampa, and $85k to hire an interpreter of his choice. The Yankees are also giving him four first class round trip plane tickets from New York and Japan. Oh, and he gets a full no-trade clause. [River Ave Blues 1/22/2014 via Sanspo 1/24/2014]
Various quotes from the press conference that did not show up yesterday:
There will be differences in practices, how do you plan to handle that?
I just have to go along with the culture over there. Those kinds of things are probably par for the course over there, so I just have to adjust, that is not a big deal.
The media over there can be pretty rough if you do not perform.
That is a good thing for a player. I think getting attention is a good thing.
Have you contacted Darvish?
I contacted him. He wished me good luck.
Expectations will be based on your contract.
I will carry whatever load I can, I just do not want to carry so much that it crushes me. I have to pace myself. There really is no such thing that x amount of money is this amount of expectation, it does not change with money. I do not think it should change the mentality of doing my best on the mound.
There will be pitch counts, it will not be the same as Japan.
I am not really the type to throw a lot any way. I am not worried.
You once said that you did not care about pitch counts and that it was about being able to pitch the way you wanted to.
The ball will change, which means breaking pitches will change. There will be different hitters. I do not know how things will go until I give it a try.
Is there anything you are being careful about during your workouts?
I have just been using the [MLB] ball. I am sure people would tell me stuff if I asked, but I want to experience it first. I do not want to think too much, I just want to go over there and adjust as I go. The only thing I have really done during my workouts is make adjustments using the [MLB] ball.
Are you practicing English?
No. But I probably will at some point.
The media is calling it a challenge, how do you feel about that?
I will think about that. But this is not a challenge. I have to perform and I have to live up to expectations.
Your are the first player to go the Majors under the new posting agreement.
I had no concerns. I was communicating with my agent so I was not worried.
Some of the media in New York have been pretty harsh.
I heard about that. I have not said a word in Japan and yet they write so much. As a player you cannot ask for more. I think it is good to be able to attract so much attention.
Your nickname in Japan was Ma-kun, what about the United States?
People around me decided on Ma-kun so I will just go along with whatever comes up.
You have been working out with Rakuten players, what about after this year?
Well, that is it, no more. Just kidding. I would like to keep the relationship going.
US media coverage via Japanese sources:
The Houston Astros were also in the mix. From the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Oritz:
A little over two weeks ago, Roger Clemens joined Astros owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow on a trip to Los Angeles to make a strong pitch to Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka:
Houston would be the perfect place to make the transition to the United States, a place where he could lead a young pitching staff and be a star of a franchise’s turnaround.
A few days later, the Astros made the pitch that would ultimately count the most: an offer "north" of $100 million, a person with knowledge of the talks said on Wednesday.
... "The point of the meeting was to expose (Tanaka) to the Astros and convince him," Luhnow said. "It was a good learning experience. Hopefully next time we’ll get across the finish line because we want the best players in Houston."