Some Yankees found out about the Masahiro Tanaka diagnosis during the game. Some read about it postgame through Twitter and text messages. Some were told by reporters in the clubhouse. It was a sobering bit of off-the-field news on a night that was pretty bad on the field as well.
“You can’t sit around and feel sorry for yourselves,” Derek Jeter said. “Because the teams we’re playing don’t feel sorry for us. It’s unfortunate, it’s not what we planned coming out of spring training, but it gives some other guys an opportunity to step up and fill some voids. It’s unfortunate, but what can you do? You have to move on.”
Of course that’s what Jeter said. What would anyone expect him to say?
The Yankees have now lost 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation before the All-Star break. CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova won’t be back this year, Michael Pineda seems questionable at this point, and Tanaka won’t be back until late August at the earliest.
Joe Girardi said that the final diagnosis essentially matched the initial diagnosis he heard yesterday. Girardi said he did not spend the day expecting Tanaka to need Tommy John surgery. He’d already heard the tear was small. The Yankees just wanted an in-person exam and a comparison to old MRIs to be sure. When Brian Cashman called this a “new injury,” it’s because yesterday’s MRI was compared to an MRI done in the offseason and the tear wasn’t there before the season started.
“I’m certainly disappointed for our player,” Cashman said. “I’m disappointed for our organization. He’s an important piece. We’ve had a lot of important pieces that we’ve seen miss action, and he’s an important piece as well. We have to continue to figure a way to plug the hole and also be hopeful and optimistic for Masahiro that he responds positively to the treatment protocols that they’ve put in place and that we can have the player back at his normal capabilities at a future date. Hopefully no more than six weeks.”
Girardi said all the things you’d expect him to say: He’s optimistic. Tanaka’s not the first pitcher to go through this. The Yankees will have to find a way to plug the hole. There’s really not much more he could say right now. The Yankees gave Tanaka extra rest at every opportunity, he rarely threw more than 110 pitches, and he didn’t throw more than 99 pitches in either of his past two starts. He broke down anyway, just like so many other Yankees starters this season.
“Last year it was our lineup, this year it’s our rotation,” David Phelps said. “Like said, it gives some young guys an opportunity. Two years ago, I was one of those guys. Just hopefully guys can open up some eyes and make the best of it.”
• If there’s a slight silver lining it’s that Phelps actually did pitch pretty well today. He got out of a huge jam in the third inning — got Brantley, Santana and Chisenhall to strand two runners — and kept the Indians off the board through six innings. Back-to-back singles in the seventh turned out to be his only costly hits. “My first six innings were good,” Phelps said. “Could have done a better job in the seventh getting the leadoff hitter out. That’s one of the biggest at-bats right there. You get him out it changes that inning. It’s a frustrating way to finish it.”
• Phelps has allowed two earned runs or less in five of his past six starts. “He’s been really, really good,” Girardi said. “He’s been on a little bit of a roll for us, which is important, so I was happy with the way he threw the ball. He’s been good.”
• Biggest play of the game might have been the single that came immediately after Phelps left the game. Ground ball up the middle might have been a double play, but Matt Thornton reacted and knocked the ball down. Instead of getting through to Jeter, it was an infield single to load the bases. The triple that followed tied the game. “It’s reaction,” Girardi said. “But if you could think real quick, you’d say, ‘Matt Thornton, get out of the way.’ Then you’ve got a double play ball. It changes the complexion of the game. It changes who we use. It just changes everything. But it happens. It’s a reaction, it happens, and you want your pitchers to try to field balls, but that happened to be one that is the double play ball we’re looking for.”
• Thornton on that play: “I know where Derek’s at in that situation. I know that we’re pinching up the middle there, but the ball gets hit hard back at you, that’s instinct. Love to look back and be able to jump out of the way of it, but that’s not how it works. … Anyone who’s been on the mound and had the ball hit back to them, you’re going to react to it. I reacted just slow enough to slap it, and not quick enough to get it. It changes the momentum of the game there big time.”
• Speaking of Jeter, he was hit in the wrist but stayed in the game and seems fine. He of course said he’s alright. “Stevie looked at it and he’s fine,” Girardi said. “It would take a lot more than for Jeet.”
• Zelous Wheeler hit his second career home run. He also had a single, making this the second multi-hit game of his young career. He also had two hits including a home run in his debut on July 3.
• Jeter finished the game 2-for-4 and now has 1,000 career multi-hit games.
• In 70 career games at Progressive Field, Jeter is a career .354 hitter with a triple, 17 doubles, five homer, 35 RBI, 11 stolen bases, 50 runs and an .895 OPS. With a nod to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Indians presented Jeter with a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar customized with pinstripes and the number 2. He was also given a framed picture made out of Legos commemorating his first major-league home run, which was hit in Cleveland in 1996 (an artist in Cleveland makes these Lego mosaics, and they’re legitimately pretty cool).
• Phelps has now many 13 consecutive appearances as a starter. That’s the longest rotation stint of his career. He made 12 straight starts from May 1 to July 4, 2013.
• Final word goes to Phelps: “I mean, it feels like the last two years all we’ve had is guys come up and step up. You saw the way Greene threw the ball the other night. I don’t think anybody is going to try to replace Masahiro. Those are some big shoes to fill. You lose Masahiro, CC, Nova, Pineda, it gives guys an opportunity. Hopefully we can make the most of it.”
Associated Press photos