TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka went with his heart when deciding not to opt out of the final three seasons of his $155 million, seven-year contract signed in January 2014 with the New York Yankees.
"We went into battle with these guys, last year especially," Tanaka said Wednesday through a translator after a bullpen session at the Yankees' minor league complex.
"My thought was I want to go out and battle with these guys again and try to really get to where we want to get."
New York came within one game of reaching the World Series last season, losing in Game 7 of the ALCS to Houston.
It turns out if Tanaka would have decided for free agency last fall, the right-hander might have found himself trapped in a slow-moving market with few big deals being completed a week from the start of spring training.
"You want to be here or you want to be wherever and get ready for the season," Tanaka said.
"On that note I think it was good for me to know where I'm going. You would never know that after the season was over that it was going turn out something like this."
Tanaka is 52-28 in 105 starts with the Yankees. He allowed 35 homers — up from 22 in 2016 — last year, but finished 13-12 over 30 starts.
"At the start of the season, it was really shaky," Tanaka said. "I felt like I was making adjustments, adjustments and adjustments throughout the season.
"Finally it seemed like everything kind of came together toward the end. My thought process right now is to just try and go in the season from where I left off last season."
Tanaka is a little disappointed that two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels this offseason and not the Yankees.
"A player of that caliber, you want to be on the same team," Tanaka said.
The Yankees did add NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with Miami.
"Honestly, I was excited to hear about the news," Tanaka said.
Tanaka has not talked yet with new manager Aaron Boone, who is making his managerial debut this year following the firing of Joe Girardi.
"It's a positive curiosity of how he's going to run the team and how he's going to go about his business," Tanaka said. "Really looking forward to playing under him."
Yankees pitchers and catchers report for spring training Tuesday.
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