The video above is Joe Girardi explaining the basics of what’s going on with Masahiro Tanaka. The short version is this: He complained of elbow soreness after last night’s game. He was sent to New York for an MRI, but team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad is out of town and is not available to immediately evaluate Tanaka, but the early indications are significant enough that the Yankees have put Tanaka on the disabled list. They’re calling it right elbow inflammation.
“It’s a loss right now because we’re DLing him now,” Girardi said. “It’d be a big loss (if he has to miss significant time). Anytime you lose a starting pitcher, they’re hard to replace. What he’s done for us — the innings, the wins and the quality of starts — it’s hard to replace.”
If you’re scoring at home, the Yankees now have just one pitcher from their Opening Day rotation — Hiroki Kuroda — who’s still healthy and active. A full 80 percent of the team’s expected starters have landed on the disabled list.
“The ball was coming out good (last night),” Brian McCann said. “He was just up in the zone, so I didn’t think anything of it. … His pitches didn’t have the sharp action they they’ve had in the past. He still pitched good. He didn’t pitch bad. I didn’t notice anything. It was a surprise when I came in today.”
Until there’s a more thorough evaluation from Dr. Ahmad, the Yankees are keeping things pretty vague. Girardi said only that the upcoming All-Star break played no role in the decision to put Tanaka on the disabled list. With or without the break — which potentially minimizes the number of starts he’ll have to miss — the current situation would have landed Tanaka on the DL.
Girardi said Tanaka never complained about the elbow until last night.
“It’s obviously soreness,” Girardi said. “I’m not saying it’s a significant injury. There’s soreness and he must have felt that it was affecting him a little bit.”
Without a full diagnosis, there is no time table or rehab plan for Tanaka. Dr. Ahmad was in Seattle for a conference, and the Yankees will wait for him to get back to New York to examine Tanaka.
“You just hope and pray that we get good news, that it’s something minor,” Brett Gardner said. “You worry about anybody, but he’s pretty special, what he’s been able to do the first half of the season. I think anyone could tell watching him last night; I don’t know when his arm was bothering him or how long it’s been bothering him, but he obviously wasn’t himself. Hopefully we get good news.”
• Of course, Tanaka isn’t the only injury news of the day. Carlos Beltran was supposed to return to the lineup after missing a couple of games with swelling behind his right knee. He was in the lineup, batting fifth, but he was hit by a ball during batting practice. Beltran was at the plate when a ball hit off the cage and smacked him in the face. The Yankees are calling the injury a facial contusion. Because of the timing, there’s been no chance to ask for specifics.
• Brett Gardner is also out of the lineup with that abdominal issue. Gardner said he had a stomach bug this weekend in Minneapolis, and he initially thought yesterday’s pain near his stomach was related. As the game progressed, Gardner decided it wasn’t related to the illness, but he was worried it might be a hernia. Doctors have ruled that out, and Gardner said he’s confident he’ll be able to play tomorrow.
• Gardner on the injury: “I don’t remember doing anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t necessarily just feel it on one swing or one pitch or running after a ball in the gap. It was something that just gradually came along. I feel pretty confident that it’s just a one-day thing and I’ll be good tomorrow. I feel like I could play today, but Stevie and the doctor said it’s best to maybe take one day fully off doing nothing; no swinging, no running. I think I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
• Without Tanaka, the Yankees need a starter for Sunday. Chase Whitley is an obvious candidate, but Girardi said it will be TBA until the Yankees get through these next four days. Basically they’ll use who they need to use, then choose a Sunday starter based on who’s available.
• For tonight, Zoilo Almonte has been called up and put in the lineup, but Girardi did not commit to Almonte being a lineup regular going forward. He didn’t even commit to Almonte being with the team beyond the All-Star break. “We’ll see what we do,” Girardi said. “Let us get through this week, through Sunday, then we’ve got four days to think about what our best roster is.” The Yankees face a lefty tomorrow, so it’s unlikely Almonte will start again until Baltimore.
• Before the Beltran surprise, Derek Jeter was supposed to get a routine day off. “I want him to play in Baltimore,” Girardi said. “We’ve got a left-hander tomorrow. If he doesn’t get today, then it’s nine days plus a late flight plus a workout Monday, a game Tuesday. I just think you start risking that.”
Associated Press photo