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Ex-Yankees All-Star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka returning to Japan

Ex-Yankees All-Star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka returning to Japan
Masahiro Tanaka, who was an All-Star in 2019, opted to play in Japan in 2021 instead of signing with another MLB team in free agency. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who spent seven seasons with the New York Yankees, will return to play in his home country of Japan this year, the two-time All-Star announced Thursday.

"I have decided to return to Japan and play for the Rakuten Eagles for the 2021 season," Tanaka wrote on Twitter. "I wanted to make sure and touch base with you, and thank you for all the love and support you have given me for the past seven seasons.

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"I feel extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to take the field as a member of the New York Yankees, and play in front of all you passionate fans. It has been an honor and a privilege! Thank you so much!"

Tanaka, 32, went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts last season. He went 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA and was an All-Star in 2019. Tanaka also was an All-Star in his first season, when he posted a 13-5 record with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts in 2014 for the Yankees.

He signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in 2014. Tanaka had a $23 million salary in 2020, his final year of that deal. He was a free agent this off-season.

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Tanaka also played for the Golden Eagles before he joined the Yankees. He had a 99-35 record and 2.30 ERA in his previous seven seasons for the Nippon Professional Baseball League franchise. The Golden Eagles are based in Sendai, Japan.

Tanaka will wear No. 18 for Rakuten.

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