Derek Jeter is going to his final All-Star Game. Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances are going for the first time.
In his first season since leaving Japan for the Major Leagues, Tanaka was the first American League pitcher to reach 12 wins and he currently ranks second in ERA and fifth in strikeouts. It’s unlikely the 25-year-old will actually pitch in the game because he’s current only schedule to start Sunday’s game in Baltimore, the Yankees final game before the All-Star break. Tanaka said he still plans to attend, though.
“Obviously I’m looking forward to it,” Tanaka said. “To be part of it and to be able to meet with some of the best pitchers in the major leagues, that’s going to be a great experience for me. If there’s a chance, I’d definitely like to be able to talk with some of them and maybe pick their brains.”
While Tanaka arrived with overwhelming hype, Betances came into spring training with overwhelming uncertainty. His minor league career had been uneven, but he won a spot in the Yankees bullpen has been overwhelming as a versatile late-inning reliever. His 0.75 WHIP is even lower than Tanaka’s, and he’s struck out 78 batters in 50.1 innings. There were times when it seemed he might never live up to his overwhelming potential, but he’s thrived in the relief role.
“Wow,” Betances said. “When Joe called me in the office, I was at a loss for words for a second. I’m truly blessed and honored to participate in this event. I’m so excited. … I was emotional earlier, because it’s been hard work. It’s been a long journey from all the years in the minor leagues, all the ups and downs, just to have such a good first half and for the players to vote for me, I’m truly humbled. It’s a crazy feeling for me right now. I’m enjoying each and every day here. I’m blessed to be a Yankee.”
Associated Press photos