NEW YORK – The latest high-priced addition to the New York Yankees stood at the dais in front of a large news conference, put on his pinstriped jersey with No. 19 on the back and smiled.
“Hello. My name is Masahiro Tanaka,” he said slowly in English. “I’m very happy to be a Yankee.”
After chartering a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for his trip from Tokyo to New York, the 25-year-old right-hander with the $155 million, seven-year contract was introduced Tuesday in the Legends Suite Club at Yankee Stadium.
Team spokesman Jason Zillo concluded the team’s latest Pacific overture drew New York’s most-attended news conference since slugger Hideki Matsui arrived from Japan in January 2003.
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Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said obtaining Tanaka was worth the economic pain of exceeding the $189 million luxury-tax threshold New York had hoped to stay under this season.
“We needed another starter, and when we do things, we try to do them right,” Steinbrenner said. “And this guy, he’s tough. He’s got tremendous ability. We all know that. And he’s going to be very exciting to watch.”
Tanaka chartered a Japan Airlines plane for the trip to New York, reportedly costing about $200,000. There were five passengers, including his pop-star wife, Mai Satoda, and their poodle, Haru.
“There wasn’t many choices of planes,” Tanaka said when asked about the big jet.
A commercial trip might have been uncomfortable.
“I thought about my conditioning, just wanted to get here in the best condition possible,” he said.
The Yankees figure to have a big following in Japan this year. Tanaka joins pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and former Mariners outfielder Ichiro on the roster, and reliever Yoshinori Tateyama will be at spring training with a minor-league contract.
“This would make the Boss proud,” general manager Brian Cashman said in a reference to late owner George Steinbrenner. “The Yankees obviously are about always trying to acquire the best talent and a collection of talent that can compete for a championship. But he also liked a lot of attention, and this certainly represents a lot of attention. So this is Yankee big. This is Steinbrenner big.”
Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average last year, leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title.
• Right-hander Roy Oswalt, 36, has retired after going 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 seasons.
• Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, 67, rejoined the Houston Astros as an executive adviser. He stepped down as president and chief executive officer of the Texas Rangers in October.
Reid Ryan, Nolan’s son, is the Astros’ president of business operations. Nolan Ryan was 324-292 in 27 seasons and pitched for the Astros from 1980 to 1988.
• Outfielder Michael Brantley agreed to a four-year, $25 million contract to stay with Cleveland, pending a physical exam. The 26-year-old Brantley, who was born in Bellevue, is the son of former Mariner Mickey Brantley.
• Ken Griffey Jr., a Mariners legend, and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin held sports clinics for youngsters and talked baseball with Cuban fans in Havana as part of a sports-diplomacy program.
• Former Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer will be broadcasting Phillies games on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
Ex-Phillies Moyer, 51, and Matt Stairs, 45, will replace broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews Jr., who were let go by Comcast last month.