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Japanese ace could create bidding war

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It looks like Japan has produced another pitching phenom.

Masahiro Tanaka of Sendai’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles was listed as a pitcher to watch for several MLB teams as early as last May, and now that the regular season of Nippon Professional Baseball has come to a close, it looks like Tanaka might be the real deal.

The 24-year-old right-hander finished his 2013 regular season with a perfect 24-0 record and a 1.24 ERA, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

Tanaka’s unbeaten streak extends back to the 2012 season, totaling 28 wins with three no decisions mixed in. Tanaka’s wins total is the most of any pitcher in Japanese baseball since 1978, and his 2013 campaign marks the first time the league leader in wins has also gone undefeated.

All of his work hasn’t gone unnoticed by MLB teams. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors listed Tanaka as the top free agent among pitchers and the fifth-overall free agent available for the 2014 season. The Red Sox and Yankees are already rumored to be scouting Tanaka.

Both teams have a history of signing promising Japanese pitchers to big contracts, but the prospect of finding the next Yu Darvish and Tanaka’s career marks (95-37, 2.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) may be too tempting to pass up. Tanaka will most likely start the Golden Eagles’ first playoff game on Oct. 16.

It’s a safe bet that more eyes will be on him than ever before, and if you've never seen him pitch before, checkout some of his finer moments:

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