Masahiro Tanaka came to the Major Leagues facing the same challenges that other players from his country have faced: a smaller baseball, pitching on fewer days of rest, little to no knowledge of team rivalries and fewer domes, among other things.
It is now roughly six weeks into the season.Tanaka looks as if he has conquered these challenges--and pretty easily at that. The latest one was pitching on regular MLB rest. Until last night, off days and weather gave Tanaka an amount of rest similar to what he had in Japan, where pitchers take to the mound only once a week. After his win last Friday in Milwaukee, he faced the standard four days rest for the first time this season, and came through it last night against the Mets with flying colors.
His next test will be to face a team for the second time. That should happen in Chicago next week when the Yankees face the Cubs. The weak-hitting Cubs might not be the best example when it comes to something like this, but there you have it.
Turning back to last night, if Tanaka's first loss of the season had come against the Mets, I would have been devastated. Thankfully that didn't happen, and it seemed as if Tanaka understood the meaning behind his start. He talked about it in his postgame, on-field interview, saying he knew the team had been losing a lot to the Mets, and he made it clear that he wanted to try to stop that.
So Masahiro Tanaka has been rising to the challenge, and as the season moves along, don't be surprised if he just keeps on rising.