Masahiro Tanaka has gotten off to a brilliant start in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. He has been dominant on the mound working towards a 3-0 start (continuing from his 24-0 season last year in Japan) with a 2.15 ERA. His most impressive statistics though may be his ability to go right after hitters; he has struck out 35 batters while only walking two in 29.1 innings. How’s that for dominance?
With a guy who has been so successful so early in his career, you would think that he would have a little bit more “swagger” to him. Instead, he is a professional; modest, calm, cool and collected, never letting the bright lights of New York get to him. Tonight, he gets a shot in the spotlight on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A lineup loaded with superstars from Mike Trout to Albert Pujols, a rookie pitcher might be a little nervous headed into this game. However, Tanaka put it better than anyone could have said it; “It doesn’t change my approach to the game…I just have to do my job,” he told the LoHud Yankees Blog. As a pitcher, that’s all you can really do. When you step onto the field, the game moves at your pace and you control the things that you can control.
When asked about whether he has paid attention to Pujols’ and Trout’s hot starts, Tanaka explained that he doesn’t get involved in the hype. “You can tell that they’re really good batters, but the truth is, I haven’t had a chance to face them yet.” And they haven’t had a chance to face one of the games brightest young stars. All we know is that the Japanese phenom hasn’t disappointed yet, and I would be shocked if he did tonight.