This is a big day for the Yankees rotation.
At least, it might be a big day for the Yankees rotation.
Not only is Michael Pineda making his first big league start in more than three months, but even before tonight’s first pitch, Masahiro Tanaka went into the outfield and threw 10 flat-ground fastballs. That’s a pretty small step, but it’s the most significant step yet in his return from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“Pain’s gone,” is the phrase Wally Matthews heard.
At this stage, it’s basically impossible for Tanaka to do anything that proves he’s in the clear and will definitely return to the Yankees rotation without needing Tommy John surgery. For now, the best the Yankees can hope for is that he doesn’t suffer a setback. And so far he hasn’t. We’re squarely into no news is good news territory, and right now it seems that Tanaka has no real news to report.
He’s a Major League pitcher who’s playing catch and throwing a few pitches off flat ground. As long as it goes well, none of this is a particularly big deal. It’s all just a series of steps in the right direction. It becomes a big deal when he either progresses to game action or suffers some sort of setback that shuts down the whole process.
• Although the Yankees originally announced a rotation that had Chris Capuano starting on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda told reporters in Baltimore that he’s actually taking the ball that day. The Yankees seem to be clearly — and understandably — trying to give Kuroda a little bit of a rest in hopes of avoiding a late-season crash like they’ve seen in recent years.
• Joe Girardi told reporters that he expects Brian McCann to come off the disabled list on Saturday. McCann has been on the seven-day concussion DL.
• Pineda returns to the rotation tonight. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April 23, the day he was ejected for using pine tar. Most pitches he threw during his minor league rehab assignment was 72 on Friday, so there’s basically no chance he’ll be cleared for anything particularly close to 100 pitches tonight.
• To open a roster spot for Pineda, Chris Leroux has been designated for assignment. What is this, three big league call-ups for Leroux this season? He’s been one of several guys shuttling back and forth to give the Yankees a long man when they need it. And the Yankees have needed it quite a bit because they’ve struggled to get much distance out of their starting pitchers.
• The Orioles have put third baseman Manny Machado on the disabled list with a knee injury. He hurt himself during Monday’s game against the Yankees. Chris Davis is back at third base for Baltimore.
• Speaking of Baltimore, from our friend Marly Rivera, here’s Orioles manager Buck Showalter on whether Pineda will be using pine tar tonight: “I’m hoping he’s got a little (pine tar) in the right place, YOU try gripping the ball in some of this weather.” It’s been said over and over again, but the problem with Pineda in Boston wasn’t so much that he was using pine tar, it was the fact he was being so blatant about it after the Red Sox had already looked the other way once.
• Clubhouse good guy Shawn Kelley did the Ice Bucket Challenge today and challenged Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez to do the same. Dan Barbarisi pointed out yesterday that Kelley lost his grandfather to ALS, so it’s pretty cool that he’s jumping into the recent trend.
• At the owner’s meeting to discuss the next commissioner, Hal Steinbrenner told Michael O’Keeffe that he expects to have Alex Rodriguez back in the Yankees lineup next season. That’s settled. I’m sure we won’t hear another word about it.
Associated Press photo