Can Masahiro Tanaka redeem himself by keeping Yankees alive?

From ESPN - October 8, 2017

NEW YORK -- Nine local and national media entities cover the New York Yankees as a beat. Eight Japanese reporters cover Masahiro Tanaka as a beat. To say Tanaka is scrutinized is like saying TMZ has a tendency to get into people's business.

When Tanaka takes the mound Sunday night in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, he will try to prevent the end of a Yankees season that has been promising but may be doomed to be remembered for manager Joe Girardi's Game 2 decisions.

For his part, Tanaka is at a crossroads of his Yankees career and possibly could be pitching his final game for the team.

He has fallen from being the undisputed Opening Day starter and a Cy Young candidate to the teams fourth choice to begin a playoff game. The Yankees had Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia take the mound in the postseason before handing the ball to Tanaka. He has fallen from the team's ace to its No. 4 starter.

To me, I think that kind of bothers him, said Eriko Takehama of Sankei Sports, one of the reporters who follows Tanaka. That's what hes been since day one. Hes really a competitive person.

On Sunday night, he will also attempt to delay a pretty hefty decision he must make. In his seven-year, $155 million contract, Tanakas agent, Casey Close, convinced the Yankees to include an opt-out after the fourth season. If Tanaka had pitched this year as he had for much of his first three seasons, he could have used the clause, at the least, to extract more money and years from the Yankees, if he didnt want to test free agency.

However, given his 13-12 record and 4.74 ERA this year plus a little tear in a ligament in his elbow, a decision to opt out would dare the Yankees to let him walk. And with all signs indicating Tanaka would prefer to stay in the Bronx, opting out would be a risky choice. The pressure of the opt-out also could be a factor in Tanakas mediocre regular season.

I dont think so, said Anri Uechi of Kyodo News, who also covers Tanaka. I dont think money is his priority. The team he played with in Japan was kind of a new team and wasnt really good until they won in his last season. He won 24 games and lost none. Their team won the first time a championship. He wanted to try a really traditional team with a long history and with high expectations. He tried to come over here. I am sure he wants to be more successful in New York and win the championship and be part of it. I dont think money is a big factor for him.

I dont think he is satisfied with his performance, especially this year. I think he wants to be more successful and show what he can do in a big market like New York.

Tanaka started one previous playoff game for the Yankees. In 2015, he lost the wild-card game to starter Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. Tanaka allowed two runs over five innings.


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