Tanaka honored as top rookie with Dawson Award

Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher that the Yankees signed to a seven-year contract during the off-season, has already made a strong impression. The righthander who has earned a spot in the club’s 2014 rotation was named this year’s recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in Yankees camp.

The award has been presented annually since 1956, three years after Dawson, a 45-year veteran of the New York Times, died while covering spring training at the age of 57. Dawson joined the Times as a copy boy in 1908 when he was 12 years old. The award is voted upon each year by beat writers who cover the Yankees.

Tanaka, 25, had a 2-0 record with a 2.14 ERA (21.0IP, 5ER) in five exhibition appearances, including three starts, that totaled 21 innings and led the squad with 26 strikeouts. He allowed 15 hits and three walks. Last year Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA (212.0IP, 30ER, 183K) and 183 strikeouts in 28 appearances (27 starts) covering 212 innings with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Tanaka was signed Jan. 22 by the Yankees via the posting system from the Golden Eagles to a seven-year deal.

Two former winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. What about Derek Jeter, the 1996 Jackie Robison Rookie of the Year Award winner? He lost out that year to another foreign-born right-handed pitcher, Mark Hutton of Australia.

The Dawson Award first was presented to outfielder Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. In conjunction with the award, Tanaka will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.

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