Tanaka informs Eagles he wants to pitch in majors in 2014

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The man at the center of the posting system drama finally broke his silence, and it was music to the ears of MLB fans and executives.

Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 on the mound for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles this season, wants to try his hand at pitching in the majors.

Tanaka stated his wishes during a meeting with Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana Tuesday morning and during a news conference that afternoon.

“Today I told the team that I want to play in the majors next season,” Tanaka was quoted as saying by Sports Nippon during the news conference in Sendai. “I appreciate (president) Tachibana for giving me the chance to speak with him.”

The ball is now in Rakuten’s court as far as whether or not to honor Tanaka’s wishes and make him available to MLB clubs.

The team had been widely expected to post the star pitcher this offseason, but changes to the posting system, which now places a $20 million cap on posting fees, has caused Rakuten officials to reconsider their options.

“They took it very seriously and listened to me well,” Tanaka said about the reaction of team executives to his wishes to be posted. “We’ll keep having discussions on many issues. We’ve communicated with each other well.”

Tachibana has said his priority was to try and keep Tanaka in Japan.

“We have talked many times,” Tanaka said. “It was today that the new posting system was agreed to officially, so he asked me for some time to consider it.”

Tanaka is coming off a historic season for Rakuten.

The right-hander was perfect with one save during the regular season and ran his overall record (including the postseason) to 26-0 before suffering his only defeat of the year against the Yomiuri Giants in Game 6 of the Japan Series, during which he threw 160 pitches in a complete-game loss.

Tanaka finished the regular season with 183 strikeouts and a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings. He set a new record for consecutive games won in a single season (24) and also for consecutive games won (30) and consecutive regular-season games won (28), with the latter two records dating back to Aug. 26, 2012.

The 25-year-old ace led the Eagles to their first-ever Pacific League pennant and Japan Series title this year, and took home his first PL MVP and second Sawamura Award.

“I have been hoping to go to the majors in the future,” Tanaka said. “But after finishing the season and when thinking about the next season, I wanted to try to challenge myself on a new stage.”