Masahiro Tanaka did more long toss today. He also went through a round of pitcher’s fielding practice. The next step is actually throwing off a mound.
The plan is for Tanaka to throw a 25-pitch bullpen tomorrow. It will be, without a doubt, his most significant step yet in this attempt to rehab his way back from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“If I can’t throw the way I want to throw on the mound or in the bullpen, then there’s no way I’ll be able to throw that in a game,” Tanaka said. “So definitely, the bullpen will be important.”
Tomorrow’s bullpen is scheduled for all fastballs. Tanaka still hasn’t tried to throw any type of breaking ball.
“I’ve said all along I think you need to see him in competition,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s when the intensity gets turned up and it’s not controlled. You can somewhat control a bullpen, you can somewhat control live batting practice, but once you get in a game it’s a little bit harder.”
Tanaka said he continues to feel no pain through these early stages of his throwing program. He sounds optimistic, and the Yankees seem hopeful, but there are still a lot of steps along the way.
“I sure hope (he’ll be back this year),” Girardi said. “That’s why we’re going through it. Obviously you’ve got to find out if it’s the proper thing to do and if his arm going to hold up. You’d hate to shut him down the whole year and then go through it next year. Everything has been positive so far. He said he feels good, but you really don’t ever know.”
• Brian McCann came jogging into the clubhouse, then said he only had time to grab his hat before heading onto the field for batting practice. He said nothing about how he’s feeling, but he certainly didn’t seem like a guy suffering any concussion symptoms and the Yankees still expect to have him off the disabled list tomorrow.
• If you’re curious about the details, Girardi said McCann actually took a concussion test earlier today, and his performance will be evaluated elsewhere so that the league can clear him (or not clear him) for tomorrow’s game. The Yankees think he’s gotten past the problem, but he has to pass that test to be allowed back in the lineup.
• In McCann’s place, Francisco Cervelli has been awfully good. “I’m not surprised, though,” Girardi said. “We saw it last year and we’ve seen it from this kid before. The big thing is keeping him healthy and that he’s a player for us.”
• Despite some recent bumps in the road, Girardi said he’s not overly worried about bullpen workload. “No, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of resting them when we’ve needed to rest them,” Girardi said. “It’s a long year and you go through ups and downs. Very few bullpens are ever perfect; I haven’t found one yet, and I’ve been on some teams with some pretty good bullpens. It’s just part of it.”
• A lot of attention focused on Shawn Kelley saying on Wednesday that the Yankees best bet for making the playoffs was the second wild card. “Well, he also said our goal is still to win the division too,” Girardi said. “Obviously you’re closer in the Wild Card than you are in the division, but we still have plenty of games left with Baltimore. Our goal will be to win the division and we’ll continue to fight for that, but at the very least, you want to make the playoffs.”
• Apparently Joe Maddon has declared this to be an “American Legion” game for the Rays, meaning they’re basically a show-and-go team with no plans of taking batting practice or going through many of the usual pregame routines. They’ll just get to the park and play a big league game.
• Maybe everyone is just as tired as I am today, but this felt like an incredibly slow pregame session both in the clubhouse and with Girardi. The Little League World Series was on in the clubhouse, and there just wasn’t much happening in there. Girardi talked a lot more about the fact the Yankees need to build a long stretch of success, which wasn’t much more than simply stating the obvious.
• By the way, you know what would be helpful for the Yankees starting this weekend? If they actually started hitting some home runs.
Associated Press photos