Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (35, Rakuten Golden Eagles), who was also eliminated from the World Baseball Classic (WBC) Japan team due to a drastic salary cut, aims to restore his honor as a starter for the opening game.
Japanese media, including ‘Nikkan Sports’, reported on the 13th that Tanaka had been confirmed early as the starting pitcher for Rakuten’s season opening game. Kazuhisa Ishii, director of Rakuten, made the announcement to reporters that day. Tanaka, who was in charge of starting the opening game four times for the New York Yankees in the major leagues, will be starting the opening game for the first time in 11 years since 2012 as a member of Rakuten.
Tanaka said, “Honestly, I was surprised. The selection for the opening match is something that can only be experienced by 12 clubs and 12 players. He’s a special thing as a pitcher, and I want to make pitches that definitely lead to wins.”
Tanaka, who returned to Japan in 2021 after seven years of life in the American major leagues, was somewhat sluggish last year, the second season of his return. He pitched a team-high 163 innings in 25 games, but went 9-13 with an earned run average of 3.31. Their 12 losses is the most in both leagues. His earned run average was also below the Pacific League average (3.16) and did not see the light of day in a two-goal batter season.
In the end, this year’s annual salary was 475 million yen (about 4.6 billion won), a whopping 425 million yen (about 4.1 billion won) from the previous year’s 900 million yen (about 8.7 billion won). It was the second largest reduction in Japanese professional baseball history, following 450 million yen of Yomiuri Giants pitcher Toshiya Sugiuchi (500 million yen → 50 million yen) in 2016.
In the aftermath of last year’s slump, he was also eliminated from the WBC Japan team to be held next month. After he was included in the 50-man preliminary list, he said, “I will do my best in any role, so I will prepare,” but he did not make it to the 30-man final entry. Japan selected 15 pitchers, including Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels), but ignored Tanaka. There is also the 37-year-old Darvish Yu (San Diego), but only 13 pitchers in their 20s were selected and changed generations.
Tanaka has been a regular customer of the Japanese national team since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2009, 2013 WBC, and 2021 Tokyo Olympics. This season, Tanaka needs to restore his honor more than ever as he faces a cold reality following a salary cut followed by his elimination from the national team. He is motivating as he has 10 victories left on the US-Japan record of 200 wins. Tanaka has 112 victories in 9 years in Japan and 78 victories in 7 years in the United States, recording 190 victories in Japan and the United States.
Meanwhile, Rakuten’s opening game is the Nippon Ham Fighters, which will be held at Scorn Field in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan on the 30th of next month. Scorn Field is the second retractable dome stadium in Japan, following Softbank Hawks’ Fukuoka Paypay Dome, which opened in 1993, and was built with a capacity of 35,000 seats. Tanaka starts in the historic opening game. 카지노