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Tanaka wants to carry late '17 surge into camp

Righty talks offseason adjustments, decision not to exercise opt-out
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka went home with a decision to make. The right-hander had until three days after the World Series to opt out of the final three seasons of his Yankees contract, potentially leaving $67 million on the table in favor of testing free agency.

"My thought was, 'I want to go out in battle with these guys again and try to really get to where we want to go,'" Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I really prioritized what I felt inside. I'm sure there were possibilities, but the important thing for me was to follow what my heart was saying and that's what I did."

TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka went home with a decision to make. The right-hander had until three days after the World Series to opt out of the final three seasons of his Yankees contract, potentially leaving $67 million on the table in favor of testing free agency.

"My thought was, 'I want to go out in battle with these guys again and try to really get to where we want to go,'" Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I really prioritized what I felt inside. I'm sure there were possibilities, but the important thing for me was to follow what my heart was saying and that's what I did."

On Nov. 3, Tanaka announced that he would decline to opt out, instead remaining in New York. Given the state of the free-agent market, where starters Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Yu Darvish and Lance Lynn are among those still looking for work, it appears that Tanaka made a wise decision.

"You want to be here and get ready for the season," Tanaka said. "On that note, I think it was good for me to know where I was going earlier and then be able to be here and start on my work. You never know that [free agency] was going to turn out something like this."

The 29-year-old tossed a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday as he prepares for his fifth Major League season, coming off a 2017 campaign in which he was 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 30 starts. Tanaka ranked eighth in the American League with 194 strikeouts, but tied for third-most in the AL with 35 homers allowed.

Video: TOR@NYY: Tanaka strikes out 15 over seven scoreless

"Not going into too much detail, but I did kind of understand why that happened," Tanaka said. "You go in you make the necessary adjustments so that it doesn't happen again."

Tanaka kicked his game into another gear late in the season. His final regular-season start was a splendid 15-strikeout, three-hit performance to defeat the Blue Jays in New York, and Tanaka pitched seven scoreless innings in both Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Cleveland and Game 5 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros.

"Obviously at the start of the season, it was really shaky," Tanaka said. "I felt like I was making adjustments throughout the season. Finally it seemed like everything kind of came together toward the end. My thought process right now is to try to go into the season where I left off last season and keep that in mind for now."

Video: ALCS Gm5: Tanaka K's eight over seven scoreless

Tanaka is projected to be part of a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. Though Sabathia and Severino have both said that they would like to see the Yankees add another starter, Tanaka said that he is trying to focus on himself.

"It's not my place to try and overthink too much about," Tanaka said. "It's something that the front office, management, coaches there are trying to get the best people possible to compete this season. From my standpoint, I just try to do what's important for me and get my job done."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka