BOSTON -- One day removed from his biggest victory to date, a humbling of the defending champion Boston Red Sox, Masahiro Tanaka would not rule out the possibility he could go on the same kind of tear he went on in Japan last year, when he finished 24-0 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Is a 24-0 record in his first year with the New York Yankees a distant and extreme fantasy, or a goal within the reach of a pitcher who has struck out 35 and walked two in going 3-0 in his first four big-league starts?
"Honestly, it's hard to say. But the percentage I would say is not zero percent," Tanaka told ESPNNewYork.com through his translator, Shingo Horie. "I say this because I go on the mound to try to beat the other team every single time. ... So I don't want to look at it as something that's impossible to do.
"If there's a possibility, I want to go towards that. ... Every time I take the mound, I try to win. So that's what I'm trying to do. And I fully understand how difficult of a task (24-0) would be."
Tanaka's seamless transition to New York and the major leagues has left Derek Jeter and other Yankees praising his poise on and off the mound. GM Brian Cashman said Wednesday night that Tanaka had "an El Duque Hernandez type of presence, a Roger Clemens type of presence" about him that separates him from the pack.
"Nobody expected him out of the gate to be this dominant," Cashman said. "But it already feels like he's been here a long time. He has no fear of anything, and nothing seems too big for him."
Asked if there was anything about the American game that bothered him, including the extended time it took David Ortiz to round the bases after his home run Tuesday night, Tanaka remained true to form.
"As far as David Ortiz going around the bases, taking time to do that," the pitcher said, "I honestly don't think anything about that. ... (There are) not too many obstacles I look at. Maybe the part that I'm not able to speak English."
His game and, more specifically, his devastating splitter require no translation. In New York, Tanaka has been a quiet figure with a loud talent, compelling Jeter to describe him this way: "He comes from the school of, if you know you're good, you don't have to tell people you're good."
Along those lines Wednesday, Tanaka tried to play down the impression he's made on those who now wonder if the $175 million the Yankees invested in him (including a $20 million posting fee) will end up representing a bargain.
"I don't look at myself as one of the best pitchers in the world," he said.
Legions of American baseball fans might already see it a different way.