-- NEW YORK -- Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was introduced by the New York Yankees on Tuesday to a media contingent nearly 200 strong, the franchise's largest news conference for a new player in more than a decade.
"This is Yankee big," general manager Brian Cashman said. "This is Steinbrenner big."
When manager Joe Girardi handed Tanaka his No. 19 jersey and cap, camera flashes snapped rapid fire. Tanaka, who speaks limited English, stepped to the podium.
"Hello, my name is Masahiro Tanaka," he said in English. "I'm very happy to be a Yankee." Then he nodded and offered a broad smile.
Answering questions through his translator, Tanaka would have made George Steinbrenner smile when he said his No. 1 goal is to win a championship.
Tanaka arrives with a seven-year, $155 million contract and high expectations. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese League in 2013. His splitter, according to many scouts, is one of the best in all of baseball. He will need to adjust to a larger-sized ball and pitching every five days instead of once a week, as well as myriad cultural differences.
The Yankees have had two previous Japanese pitchers with big expectations. Both the late Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were disappointments. Tanaka heard that New York can be "harsh" if he does not perform but said he looks forward to the challenge.
Cashman said Tuesday he thought about the late Steinbrenner and how The Boss would love the worldwide attention that the 25-year-old Tanaka's signing has generated.
On Tuesday, the Yankees issued nearly 200 credentials for the news conference, which is double the number for the earlier free-agent signing gatherings for Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Team spokesman Jason Zillo said it was the largest news conference the Yankees have held since Hideki Matsui was introduced at Times Square in 2003. Matsui helped recruit Tanaka in January by telling him about the benefits of living and playing in New York City.
Tanaka arrived in New York on Monday after reportedly paying $195,000 to charter a 787 Japan Airlines jet. The plane, which normally has a full flight, included his wife, Japanese pop singer Mai Satoda, three friends and Tanaka's toy poodle.
The haggling between Major League Baseball and the Japanese League over a new posting system became drawn out throughout the winter and ended up greatly favoring Tanaka. Under the old system, the posting fee would have been much larger -- maybe more than three times the $20 million the Yankees ponied up -- and Tanaka's contract likely would have been about $100 million less.
Tanka will report to the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, Fla., by Friday, when pitchers and catchers are due.