New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gave compatriot and major league prospect Shohei Otani some encouraging words at an event in Tokyo on Wednesday.
“There aren’t any players who are doing well at both pitching and hitting, so he will be talked about all over the majors,” Tanaka said.
“He’ll be admired if he succeeds,” Tanaka said of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ slugging ace pitcher. “I’d like him to be a player like that.”
When asked about Otani’s rejection of the Yankees, Tanaka said, “I have to respect his decision — that’s all there is.”
Tanaka, who pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles before joining the Yankees, may get another chance to face Otani next season. The two haven’t met on the field since 2013, the year Rakuten clinched the Pacific League pennant and went on to claim the Japan Series title.
“I was throwing like I didn’t want to allow a single hit,” Tanaka said of his last season in NPB before being posted to the majors.
In addition to the Yankees, mlb.com listed the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox as teams Otani has reportedly struck from consideration.
The San Diego Padres, the remaining club among the seven believed to have a shot at landing the two-way star, will meet with Otani on Wednesday at his agent’s office in Los Angeles, according to mlb.com.