Tanaka chosen for MLB All-Star Game

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The $175 million the New Yankees spent to acquire Masahiro Tanaka is looking more and more like a bargain with each passing day.

The Japanese ace had already established himself as one of the best pitchers in the majors this year. Now he can add All-Star to his brief MLB resume.

Tanaka was among those chosen to represent the American League at the 2014 MLB All-Star Game when the rosters were released on Sunday. The New York Yankees rookie joined Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish as the only Japanese players chosen for the game, which is scheduled for July 15, at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Obviously, I’m looking forward to it. To be part of it and to be able to meet with some of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues, that’s going to be a great experience for me,” Tanaka was quoted as saying by the New York Yankees’ official website. “If there’s a chance, I’d definitely like to be able to talk with some of them and maybe pick their brains.”

Because Tanaka is scheduled to start for the Yankees on Sunday, it’s unlikely he’ll be available to pitch in the All-Star Game.

Tanaka (12-3) has been as good as advertised following his high-profile move from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Yankees over the offseason.

He leads the majors in wins, is sixth with a 2.27 ERA and tied for sixth with the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Cueto with 130 strikeouts. His 4.4 WAR for pitchers is the best in MLB according to numbers compiled by Baseball Reference.

Tanaka was a six-time All-Star in Japan (2007-2009 and 2011-13) and started a game during the series on four occasions (NPB’s All-Star Series has featured two to three games since 1951), including each of the last three seasons. Tanaka was 1-1 in his six All-Star appearances and allowed seven runs — six during the second inning of his start in 2007 as a rookie — in 11 innings with six strikeouts.

Darvish was named to the MLB All-Star team for the third time in his three seasons in the majors. He’s 8-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 134 strikeouts (the second-highest total in MLB) this year.

“I’m very honored and excited to be playing in the All-Star Game,” Darvish was quoted as saying by the Texas Rangers’ website. “I’m kind of surprised. There are so many great pitchers, and I haven’t had very many outings that I’m satisfied with. I think people still have the image of me from last year.”

Despite being an All-Star in 2012 and 2013, Darvish has yet to actually participate in the game.

He was the Final Vote winner in his rookie season, but designated as the pitcher to be used in the event of extra innings and didn’t get in the game. He was selected to the team again last year, but couldn’t pitch because of an injury to his shoulder.

“I really think he has thrown the ball well,” Rangers manager Ron Washington was quoted as saying on the Texas Rangers’ official website. said. “He looks more relaxed, and he has a good grasp of what he has to do. He knows the league a lot better, but the main thing for me is that he is commanding his fastball a lot better.”