Since coming to the Yankees from Japan, Masahiro Tanaka has routinely appeared to be underwhelmed by this surroundings. He hasn’t been bothered by the constant media attention, he seemed to easily transition through his first American spring training, and his early regular-season results have been unusual only in their dominance. Tanaka has arrived as a fully prepared big league pitcher, so why should a rivalry shake him?
Tomorrow night, Tanaka will make his first career start against the Red Sox.
“Through the television screen monitor back in Japan, I’ve seen the two teams play and I understand there is a certain rivalry between the two teams going into the game,” Tanaka said. “I’m sure the fans will be heated up a bit, and it should be a good experience going up on the mound that day and I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Nervous? Uncertain? Concerned? No, Tanaka spoke about Tuesday’s start with the same dry expression he’s shown since spring training. He even said that watching the Red Sox games in the Bronx last weekend didn’t do much for him.
“Didn’t feel too much when they came to Yankee Stadium,” he said.
This seems to be Tanaka’s personality. He’s unaffected by all of the noise that surrounds him, and takes a very matter-of-fact approach to his job. Asked about facing David Ortiz, Tanaka said he considers him a good hitter, but didn’t say much more. Asked about dealing with the Green Monster, Tanaka said he thinks it’s probably best to get a bunch of ground balls. No added dramatics, just the facts.
Did his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, have a rivalry similar to Yankees-Red Sox?
“Probably the (Yomiuri) Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, the big rivalry in Japan,” Tanaka said. “But for the Eagles, I don’t think so.”
Just one more thing in his life that’s different this year, and nothing else seems to have been a big deal.
“So far he’s shown that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “There hasn’t been anything that’s said he’s going to be more anxious for this start than any other start, so I’d expect him to have the same personality.”
Associated Press photo