As teams are meeting with Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka, they are wondering in the back of their minds whether they are getting the next great young pitcher or someone that will flame out in the United States. How will his workload translate to the Major Leagues? Nobody will know for sure until he starts pitching, but there are some former Major Leaguers and even an ex-Yankee who are familiar with Tanaka by playing with him in Japan.
One of those teammates is Rakuten Golden Eagle and former New York Yankee Darrell Rasner. Rasner currently comes out of the bullpen, but it allowed him to get a closer look as to how Tanaka pitches and the workload he puts into his starts.
In an interview with WFAN that was published in the New York Post, Rasner refers to Tanaka as a “bulldog”, which isn’t surprising considering that has been the consensus from MLB experts. We all know by now that the right-hander went 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA. However, there is still room to improve for him.
Rasner discusses about how Tanaka matured as a pitcher last season in terms of changing speeds and taking the timing away from hitters. Also, he mentions how that workload has given him an extra gear he can go to at any moment in the game.
“I don’t have that extra gear, and it’s really fun watching these pitchers that when they get in trouble they can go up that extra bit and get outs that way with just pure stuff.”
There is an old saying in sports that the best players aren’t the best talent evaluators. Rasner was 5-10 with the Yankees in 2008, but he knows what pitching in New York is like. He thinks that Tanaka can handle the spotlight because he always wants the ball and already has the experience of a whole nation watching him in events such as the World Baseball Classic.
Considering that Tanaka has already received praise from other former Yankees such as Casey McGehee, the consensus is that the Yankees should make a run for him. Now, that they have the Alex Rodriguez situation ended in terms of financial issues, Tanaka has to be the Yankees’ #1 target.