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Tanaka signs with northern Japanese club Rakuten Eagles

Former New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has signed a two-year contract with the Rakuten Eagles in Japanese baseball, the club said Thursday.

The Eagles confirmed the deal but did not provide financial details. Local media reported it is worth almost $9 million annually.

Tanaka last pitched for the same northern Japanese club in 2013 and then spent seven seasons with the Yankees, where he went 78-46.

March 11 marks the 10th anniversary of an earthquake, tsunami and the resulting meltdown of three nuclear reactors in the northern Pacific coast area of Japan where the Eagles are based. That anniversary is sure to add to the drama around Tanaka’s return to Japan.

Spring training starts next week for Japanese clubs, which have been able to play in stadiums with a limited number of fans attending.

Japan, with a population of 126 million, has attributed just over 5,000 deaths to COVID-19. Cases have been surging recently, particularly in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka.

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