High-priced right-hander Masahiro Tanaka departed on Sunday for New York to begin his major league career.
Because of the heavy snowfall that blanketed the Tokyo area the day before, it took the former Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace 8½ hours to go from the center of Tokyo to Narita airport, where he boarded a charter for New York.
Last month, Tanaka signed a seven-year contract with the Yankees worth $155 million after the Eagles agreed to let him move to the major leagues through the posting system. According to Tanaka's staff, his transportation expenses are no object with the pitcher and his wife traveling on a chartered Boeing 787.
"Does it feel this is a move that has come at last? Until this point, I've been in Japan and I didn't have any sense of going to the States," he said. "This is fun. I want to do my best in a new situation."
"I have been blessed to have been with my club (Rakuten) and my teammates and being able to play ball in such a good environment.
"I will miss them, but I hate making a big deal about it."
The Yankees will unveil their big winter signing at a Yankee Stadium news conference on Tuesday. The team's pitchers and catchers are to report to spring training in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 15.
"I've heard that the New York media can be severe, but I don't want to be overly concerned about what's going on around me," Tanaka said. "I would rather focus on the things I need to do."
Tanaka said he hadn't given much thought to how he would pitch in camp.
"Until now, I've always done a bullpen on the first day, but I've been thinking it might be better to ease into it (this time)," Tanaka said.