Masahiro Tanaka (35), who was dropped from the Japanese national team, will start in the opening game of the regular season. Rakuten Eagles manager Kazuhisa Ishii (50) announced on the 13th that Tanaka would start the game against the Nippon Ham Fighters on March 30th. It is the first game to be played at Nippon Ham’s new home stadium, Scorn Field Hokkaido. The best pitcher has added meaning to the historic opening game.
Manager Ishii said, “I believe he will make his first appearance in the first game and win his first victory.” This is his first opening game start in 11 years, following 2012 before advancing to the major leagues.
Tanaka moved to the United States through the posting system after the 2013 season. He signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. In 2013, the year before advancing to the major leagues, he competed as the Japanese national team in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and failed to play in the opening game of the regular season.
The modifier ‘living legend’ is not awkward. He pitched in 28 games (27 starts) in 2013, going undefeated with 24 wins with 1 save and an earned run average of 1.27. He won two wins by shutout while pitching eight complete games. He led the team to its first Pacific League championship with an overwhelming pitch.
His manga-like performance led to the Climax series and the Japan series. He started Game 6 of the Japan Series against the Yoriuri Giants and allowed 4 runs in 9 innings. It was one of the worst games he played that year. He threw 160 pitches, giving his all but becoming the losing pitcher. However, in the 7th game held the next day, he appeared as a finishing pitcher in the 9th inning and blocked one inning without a run and showed his strength to confirm the championship. 스포츠토토
His status has declined considerably compared to his heyday.
Tanaka, who returned to Rakuten in 2021, received an annual salary of 900 million yen. He ranked first in the annual salary of Japanese professional baseball for two consecutive years. He went 9-12 with a 3.31 earned run average in 25 games last year. His salary was drastically cut. He signed for 475 million yen, a cut of 425 million yen. He threw 12 losses, his own season-high, but his team-high 163 innings pitched.
He has stated publicly that he wants to compete in the WBC. He aspired to be selected for the national team. However, Japanese national team coach Hideki Kuriyama composed the pitching staff mainly with young pitchers in their 20s. Tanaka was also unable to resist the trend of generational change. He represented Japan at the 2009 and 2013 WBC, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
78 wins with the New York Yankees, 112 wins in a Rakuten uniform. He has won 190 victories in his career in the US and Japan, with 10 victories left to reach 200.
The first opener in 11 years is his first step towards his great record.