Rakuten’s Tanaka scores big pay rise


Sawamura Award-winning pitcher Masahiro Tanaka re-signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Monday for ¥320 million next season, up a whopping ¥120 million from 2011.

Tanaka became the only second player in Japanese baseball history to reach ¥300 million in annual salary at the age of 23. Yu Darvish signed for ¥330 million two years ago, following his second Pacific League MVP-winning season with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

“I haven’t been able to respond to the calls of our fans (to win a championship), so my main objective is to really lead our team higher. I will do my utmost throughout the year in the starting rotation,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka, who pitched a complete game in the home opener in the disaster-hit Sendai following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, led the PL with 19 wins, a 1.27 ERA and a .792 winning percentage — all career highs — in his fifth season of pro baseball.

“I am glad that I could reach career highs. But I can’t be truly happy unless I can post good numbers and the team does well too. For a baseball player, it’s not a good position to be in if you have to watch the Climax Series and the Japan Series on TV,” said Tanaka, referring to Rakuten’s fifth-place finish.

Veteran Kokubo signs up


Veteran Fukuoka Softbank Hawks first baseman Hiroki Kokubo, who this year became the oldest player ever to be named Japan Series MVP, re-signed to a one-year deal for an unchanged salary of ¥300 million on Monday.

Hampered by injuries, the 40-year-old Softbank captain had a season of ups and downs but contributed to the Hawks’ first Japan Series title in eight years.

Kokubo reached his 400th career homer on May 12 but was limited to just 98 games, hitting just .269. He had surgery on his neck in early December.

“Right now, I feel no pain,” said Kokubo, who is 38 hits shy of his 2,000th career hit. “I would like to reach that mark by May” he said.

Yabuta inks new deal


Chiba Lotte Marines closer Yasuhiko Yabuta re-signed with the club on Monday for ¥100 million next season, up ¥40 million from 2011, plus performance-based incentives.

Yabuta had a 1-2 record with 31 saves and a 1.75 ERA in 53 appearances for the Marines, who finished last in the Pacific League a year after winning the Japan Series in 2010.