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  • Masahiro Tanaka is a Japanese professional baseball starting pitcher for the New York

  • Yankees of Major League Baseball. From 2007 through 2013, he played for the Tohoku Rakuten

  • Golden Eagles in Nippon Professional Baseball's Pacific League.

  • Tanaka led his high school team to a championship in the National High School Baseball tournament

  • as a junior for Komazawa University Tomakomai High School in 2005 and a runner-up berth

  • in the same tournament as a senior in 2006. Tanaka was the Eagles' first-round pick in

  • the 2006 NPB high school draft and was the team's ace until the end of the 2013 season.

  • From 2012 to 2013, he won 26 consecutive decisions, which broke an NPB record.

  • Early life Tanaka was born in Itami, a city in Hyōgo,

  • Japan. He began playing baseball in the first grade as a catcher for the Koyanosato Tigers

  • alongside current Yomiuri Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who was then the team's ace

  • pitcher and Tanaka's batterymate. Tanaka and Sakamoto hit third and fourth in the lineup,

  • respectively. He went on to play for the Takarazuka Boys while attending Itami Municipal Matsuzaki

  • Junior High School, being used at both pitcher and catcher because of his strong throwing

  • arm. He was chosen to the Junior All-South Kansai team in his third year of junior highthe

  • equivalent of ninth grade in the United States. High school career

  • 2004 – spring 2006 Tanaka moved on to Komazawa University Tomakomai

  • High School in Hokkaidō, now playing solely as a pitcher for the team. Armed with a fastball

  • that sat in high-80s and a hard slider, he led his team all the way to a championship

  • in the 87th National High School Baseball tournament held at Koshien Stadium in the

  • summer of his second year. His very last pitch of the tournament was clocked at 150 km/h,

  • the first time a pitcher had ever clocked that speed as a junior in the history of the

  • tournament. Tanaka, already a highly coveted talent by NPB scouts, was chosen to the Japanese

  • team that would play in the IBAF AAA World Junior Championships following the tournament

  • and contributed to the team's title. Now given the uniform number 1 and officially

  • appointed the team's ace pitcher, Tanaka led Tomakomai High to a regional title as well

  • as a championship in the Meiji Jingu Tournament that fall, hitting home runs in four straight

  • games in the latter himself. While his team was viewed as the favorite going into the

  • 78th National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament to be held the following spring,

  • Tomakomai High was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of allegations of misconduct

  • of some of the players. Summer 2006

  • Tomakomai High earned a berth in the 88th National High School Baseball Championship

  • that summer. Tanaka managed to lead them to their third consecutive appearance in the

  • tournament finals despite being ill prior to the tournament. The team's coach did not

  • start Tanaka in the finals against Waseda Jitsugyo High School, opting to rest him due

  • to the number of innings he had thrown in the last few games, but he ended up sending

  • Tanaka to the mound in relief midway through the third inning. Tanaka held Waseda Jitsugyo

  • to just one run and struck out 10, but the opponent's ace, Yuki Saito, held Tomakomai

  • High to one run himself on seven hits. The game remained tied 1-1 after 15 innings, forcing

  • a rematch as per tournament regulations. It was the first time in 37 years that the tournament

  • finals had resulted in a rematch.

  • In the rematch that ensued the next day, Tanaka again came on in relief in the bottom of the

  • first, but Tomakomai High lost to Waseda Jitsugyo despite his pitching the remaining 71⁄3

  • innings of the game. The pitchers' duel between Tanaka and Saito in the finals and the rematch

  • that followed became on the most defining moments in all of sports in Japan that year.

  • Tanaka, dealing with intestinal inflammation, threw 742 pitches in 522⁄3 innings in the

  • tournament, striking out 54 and walking 20 with a 2.22 earned run average.

  • Both pitchers were chosen to play for Japan in the U.S.-Japan High School Baseball Tournament.

  • Tomakomai High and Waseda Jitsugyo High met one last time in the finals of the Nojigiku

  • Hyogo National Sports Festival, the last tournament of Tanaka's high school career, but Tomakomai

  • High was shut out by Saito and lost to Waseda Jitsugyo, finishing second yet again.

  • Aftermath Tanaka struck out 458 batters over the course

  • of his high school career, surpassing Daisuke Matsuzaka's previous national high school

  • record of 423 with Yokohama Senior High School. He also hit 13 home runs during those three

  • years. After rival Yuki Saito announced that he would

  • not be declaring for the upcoming draft, opting to go on to Waseda University instead, Tanaka

  • became the single most highly touted high school player eligible to be picked. On September

  • 25, in the 2006 NPB high school draft, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes,

  • Yokohama BayStars and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles all selected Tanaka with their first-round

  • picks. The Golden Eagles drew the winning straw, signing him to a base salary of 15

  • million yen, a signing bonus of 100 million yen and additional performance-based incentives,

  • the equivalent of what a first-round college or industrial league-player would normally

  • receive, on November 2. He was also given the uniform number 18, which typically denotes

  • a team's staff ace in Japanese professional baseball.

  • Professional career Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

  • 2007 Tanaka was named to the Eagles' ichigun roster

  • during Spring Training of his rookie year, and made his professional debut on March 29

  • 2007 against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks as the starting pitcher, but gave up six runs

  • on six hits and a walk in 12⁄3 innings. Though he was not charged with a loss, as

  • the Eagles made a furious comeback to tie the game up in the fourth, he was seen sitting

  • in the dugout in tears after being taken out of the game.

  • On April 18, in a home game against the Hawks, he held the team to two runs and struck out

  • 13 in a complete game win, the first win of his professional career. He became the first

  • pitcher since current Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish to throw a complete game shutout as

  • a rookie out of high school on June 13 in an interleague game against the Chunichi Dragons.

  • He also became the first pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 1999 to be voted the starter

  • of the NPB All-Star Game as a rookie out of high school, starting in Game 2 on July 22

  • and clocking a personal-high 153 km/h. On July 10, Tanaka recorded his 100th strikeout

  • of the season in just 962⁄3 innings, tying the record for the fastest to reach 100 career

  • strikeouts held by former Hanshin Tigers pitcher Yutaka Enatsu. He became the first pitcher

  • to record double-digit wins in Eagles franchise history in a win against the Saitama Seibu

  • Lions on August 31. Tanaka finished the year with an 11-7 record

  • and a 3.82 ERA, faring particularly well against the Hawks. His 196 strikeouts were the second-most

  • by any pitcher in either league and the fourth-most as a rookie out of high school in Japanese

  • professional baseball history. He was named the Pacific League Most Valuable Rookie, the

  • first player out of high school to win the award since Matsuzaka.

  • 2008 In 2008, Tanaka was penciled into the front

  • end of the Eagles' starting rotation for the second straight season. He earned his first

  • career win at Sapporo Dome, located in his former home of Hokkaido, in a win against

  • the Fighters on May 4, drawing cheers from the crowd despite pitching for the away team.

  • He came on in relief for the first time in his career in an interleague game against

  • the Hiroshima Carp on June 22, recording his first career save.

  • Tanaka was able to make only 24 starts, missing playing time because of both a brief rehab

  • stint in the minors due to inflammation in his shoulder and his participation in the

  • 2008 Beijing Olympics as a member of the Japanese national team. He entered the last game of

  • the regular season against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks with nine wins, looking to both earn

  • his tenth win of the season and prevent the Eagles from finishing in last place. While

  • he held the Hawks to no runs over nine innings, Hawks starter Toshiya Sugiuchi equaled his

  • performance and Tanaka fell short of his goal of reaching double-digit wins. The Eagles

  • eventually won in walk-off fashion in the twelfth inning, finishing one game ahead of

  • the Hawks for fifth place in the regular season standings.

  • 2009 Tanaka got off to an utterly dominant start

  • to the 2009 season, pitching a four-hit complete game shutout against the Hawks in his first

  • start on April 7, a one-run complete game win against the Chiba Lotte Marines on April

  • 14, a three-hit complete game shutout against the Marines on April 22, and an 11-strikeout,

  • one-run complete game win against the Fighters on April 29. The fourth win marked the 1500th

  • of Eagles manager Katsuya Nomura's career and made Tanaka the first pitcher to start

  • the season with four consecutive complete game wins since Satoru Komiyama and Shigetoshi

  • Hasegawa both accomplished the feat in 1993. However, though he went 4–0 with a 0.50

  • ERA for the month of April, striking out 37 and allowing just 24 baserunners in 36 innings

  • and winning Pacific League monthly Most Valuable Player honors for the first time in his career,

  • he was removed from the active roster on April 30 with a minor shoulder strain as a result

  • of fatigue. He returned to the team on May 13, pitching seven innings of three run-ball

  • against the Fighters for his fifth straight win to start the season.

  • 2013 On September 13, 2013, Tanaka set a new NPB

  • record with his 21st consecutive win in the 2013 season in a 6–2 complete game victory

  • over the Orix Buffaloes at home in Sendai at Kleenex Stadium. This victory was Tanaka's

  • 25th consecutive win, including his final four starts in 2012. It also eclipsed the

  • longest consecutive winning streak for MLB pitchers, set at 24 by Carl Hubbell in the

  • 1936 and 1937 seasons. On September 26, 2013, Tanaka relieved to close the last 2⁄3 inning.

  • With a one run lead, he sealed the victory and the Eagles' first Pacific League title.

  • It was his first appearance as a closer in the 2013 season.

  • He ended the regular season with a 24–0 record and 1.27 ERA, tops in both leagues.

  • He also became the second post-war starting pitcher with an undefeated season with minimum

  • innings required for an ERA title since Shigekuni Mashiba.

  • Tanaka went on to win his second Sawamura Award as the Golden Eagles competed for their

  • first Japan Series title. Taking postseason games into account, his 2013 record stood

  • at 30–0 on October 28, 2013. New York Yankees

  • Tanaka was repeatedly scouted by MLB representatives during the 2013 season. Through the revised

  • posting system, Rakuten posted Tanaka to MLB during the 2013-14 offseason at a fee of $20

  • million. On December 26, 2013, all 30 MLB teams were notified that the 30-day period

  • to sign the 25-year-old right-hander began at 8 a.m. EST. Clubs had until 5 p.m. EST

  • on January 24, 2014, to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who is represented by agent Casey

  • Close. During the month-long period following Tanaka's

  • posting, teams reported to be serious suitors included the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs,

  • Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Houston Astros. On January

  • 22, 2014, Tanaka signed a seven-year contract worth $155 million with the Yankees. The contract

  • contains an opt-out clause after the fourth year and a full no-trade clause.

  • 2014 Tanaka made his Major League debut on April

  • 4, 2014 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The first batter he faced was ex-Yankee Melky

  • Cabrera, in which whom he allowed a home run to after throwing his first 3 pitches. Tanaka

  • finished the game pitching 7 innings with 8 strikeouts but allowing 3 runs on 6 hits

  • and got his first career win in the MLB as the Yankees won against the Blue Jays 7-3.

  • Tanaka made his first career homestand start on April 9, 2014 against the Baltimore Orioles

  • where he struck out 10 in 7 innings but surrendered a 3-run homer by Jonathan Schoop. He received

  • a no-decision in his first home start as the Yankees lost the game 4-5. During an interleague

  • game against the New York Mets on May 14, 2014, Tanaka recorded his first Major League

  • hit off of Jose Valverde and pitched his first complete game in the Majors as the Yankees

  • shut out the Mets 4-0. Tanaka started well going 6-0 until he took his first career loss

  • in the MLB on May 20, 2014 as the Yankees lost to the Chicago Cubs 1-6. It was Tanaka’s

  • first regular season loss in any professional baseball league since August 19, 2012. The

  • next month, Tanaka recorded his 100th strikeout of the season, along with another complete

  • game. He nearly completed a shutout in the same game, but the first two runs of the game

  • were earned off of a two run homer in the 9th inning by Robinson Canó, who left the

  • Yankees in the offseason to join the Seattle Mariners. Tanaka quickly struck out the next

  • two batters to win the game. Tanaka also became the first Yankees rookie to win 12 games by

  • the All-Star break. Tanaka was voted as a reserve for The American League for the Major

  • League Baseball All-Star Game. He and teammate Dellin Betances are the first Yankees rookie

  • pitchers to earn an All-Star Game nod since Spec Shea in 1947. After losing to the Cleveland

  • Indians 3-5 on July 8, 2014, Tanaka began to experience discomfort in his right arm.

  • On July 9, 2014, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list due to right elbow inflammation.

  • An MRI revealed that his elbow had a partially torn UCL. Hoping to avoid surgery, Tanaka

  • received a cortisone shot and rested his elbow for 6 weeks. Tanaka rehabbed by throwing in

  • the outfield and playing in simulated games. Tanaka returned on September 21 against the

  • Blue Jays. In his final start of the 2014 season against the Boston Red Sox on September

  • 27, 2014, Tanaka lasted only 1.2 innings giving up 7 runs as the Yankees lost to the Red Sox

  • 4-10. In 20 starts of his first Major League season in 2014, Tanaka posted a 2.77 ERA with

  • 141 strikeouts and a 13-5 record. International career

  • Tanaka was the only player to be chosen to the national team to play in the 2008 Beijing

  • Olympics from the Eagles, becoming the youngest Japanese baseball player to play in the Olympics

  • as a pro in the history of the event. He pitched in relief in Japan's first game against Cuba

  • in the group stage, throwing one scoreless inning and striking out three. While Tanaka

  • saw limited playing time as a middle reliever for the team, he recorded a 0.00 ERA and the

  • highest strikeout rate of any pitcher on the team.

  • He also played for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, coming on in relief for

  • Satoshi Komatsu midway through the sixth inning of the seeding match against South Korea in

  • the second round but surrendering a home run to Lee Bum-Ho. He pitched in the semi-finals

  • against the United States, giving up a triple to Jimmy Rollins but striking out David Wright

  • to end the inning, contributing to Japan's second consecutive championship in the tournament.

  • Tanaka was highly expected to be the staff ace of Team Japan in the 2013 WBC, but poor

  • form in the build-up to the tournament led to concern over his performance. He started

  • the pool opener against Brazil and conceded an unearned run. He came on as a reliever

  • against Cuba and again conceded a run, before appearing to return to his usual form by striking

  • out 6 batters in 2 innings. Tanaka again came on as a reliever against Chinese Taipei and

  • had 2 good innings, shutting out the side with 4 strike outs, before conceding the equalizer

  • in his third inning at the bottom of the 8th. Up to that point, Tanaka's inconsistency produced

  • an ERA of 3.00, allowing 10 hits and 3 runs in 6 innings while striking out 10.

  • Career statistics Bold indicates league leader; statistics current

  • as of Jan 22, 2014 Pitching style

  • Tanaka is a right-handed pitcher who throws from a high three-quarter arm slot in a drop-and-drive

  • motion. He throws two fastballs usually in the low-90s that top out at 97 mph. He also

  • has a plus 84–88 mph splitter with late downward action, a plus slider in the low

  • to mid-80s, and an occasional curveball. Nickname

  • Tanaka is often affectionately referred to as Mā-kun by both fans and the media. The

  • nickname stuck after Tanaka and Saito told the media that that was what Tanaka was called

  • on the team during the U.S.-Japan High School Baseball Tournament that followed the national

  • tournament in 2006. Eagles manager Katsuya Nomura also often refers to Tanaka as "Mā-kun"

  • in interviews. While older players on the team generally call Tanaka by his surname,

  • some call him by the abbreviated nickname "Mā".

  • Personal life

  • Tanaka has publicly declared himself a zealous fan of Momoiro Clover Z, a popular female

  • idol group in Japan. He has attended the group's concerts multiple times. When practicing he

  • wears custom-made multicolored gloves in the five Momoiro Clover Z member colors and he

  • plays official games in gloves embroidered with a clover leaf. When his baseball team

  • presented its fan club members with "cheering goods", the towel saying "Tanaka" used the

  • same five colors. At the game in which the pitcher set a new Japanese professional baseball

  • record of 16 consecutive victories in one season, cheer banners of the same color scheme

  • were distributed among the spectators. He has used the group's songs as his "warm-up

  • song". After he joined Yankees, his warm-up song at home games is "My Dear Fellow" by

  • Momoiro Clover Z. This song was specially made for Tanaka and unveiled when he debuted

  • at Yankee Stadium, before it was released in Japan. New York Post said that "for when

  • the rookie threw his warmup pitches, he did so to the accompaniment of a Japanese pop

  • song — a tune unlike any other ever played hereWho else arrives in town with customized

  • musical accompaniment?" NJ.com, the biggest news website in New Jersey, said "Like Tanaka,

  • the act is a Japanese sensation. And like Momoiro Clover Z, Tanaka made his presence

  • vociferously known in the Bronx." Tanaka was engaged to Mai Satoda, a former

  • idol and television personality, on January 26, 2012. They officially registered their

  • marriage on March 20 of the same year. The wedding ceremony was held in Hawaii in December

  • 2012. Satoda is also a fan of Momoiro Clover Z.

  • On October 5, 2014, Tanaka and Satoda were seen attending a Morning Musume concert in

  • New York. Morning Musume is the flagship group of Hello! Project, the same organization under

  • which Satoda worked when she was an idol. References