Focused Tanaka brushes off opt-out talk

Focused Tanaka brushes off opt-out talk

BALTIMORE -- Masahiro Tanaka said that he has not been distracted by a looming opt-out clause as he begins what could be his final season with the Yankees.

Tanaka responded on Friday at Camden Yards after a New York Daily News report stated that the Yankees are preparing to let their ace right-hander walk if he opts out of his current deal.

"No, it doesn't affect me at all," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I said this from the first day of Spring Training, that I understand what the contract says, but it has nothing to do with how I perform out there on the mound. It seems like I'm just repeating myself, but it doesn't affect me. I'm just focused on playing baseball and getting the season going."

Tanaka, 28, is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Orioles. He can become a free agent after this year, in which he will earn $22 million. It is the fourth season of a $155 million deal that Tanaka signed with the Yankees prior to the 2014 campaign.

If he does not opt out, Tanaka will earn $22 million in 2018 and again in '19, then $23 million in '20. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told the New York Post that it is too early to definitively say how they would proceed with Tanaka.

"It ain't on my radar screen right now -- [there is] an entire season to play," Steinbrenner said. "Secondly, anyone that knows me knows that I don't get emotional or personal about business. Any decision then will be made on a solid analysis of all the relevant data, per usual."

Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are both eligible for free agency after this season, which could increase the importance of retaining Tanaka, who was 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 starts last year while continuing to pitch with a partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he does not believe the contract talk has affected Tanaka, who lasted just 3 2/3 innings while allowing a career-high seven earned runs in an Opening Day loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

"If he just goes out and pitches the way he's capable of pitching, he's in a good situation either way," Girardi said. "I hope it doesn't become a focus. I hope it doesn't get to him, but he's handled everything so well, I hope it doesn't become [a focus], and I don't think it will."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.