On the day he came off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings against Toronto, and that was his shortest outing of the year. Its brevity was easy to dismiss because he was working with a limited pitch count and the results were still awfully impressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in more than two months.
Today, Tanaka was cleared for more pitches, and there was a definite expectation that he would simply give the Yankees more of the same. One more encouraging start would boost confidence and send the Yankees into the offseason feeling relatively good about the status of Tanaka’s right elbow.
Instead, Tanaka got just five outs. He was charged with a season-high seven runs — five earned — and he was pulled from the game after just 50 pitches. It was bad. Except that Tanaka said afterward that he was simply having a bad day, not a injured day.
“Obviously I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be today,” he said. “But arm and body is fine.”
That is, I suppose, good news, but hearing Tanaka say he’s healthy certainly carries a little more weight when he’s coming off a strong and encouraging start. This start was neither of those things.
“There was no problem,” Joe Girardi said. “He had just thrown a lot of pitches in those first two innings, and I just thought it’s not smart to send him back out or leave him out there, so I just made a change. … He struggled with some command today a little bit and wasn’t real sharp with his fastball for whatever reason. We asked him, ‘Do you feel good?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He got in some bad counts and they hurt him.”
Worry about it all winter?
“I would think that he would have some peace of mind knowing that he feels good and knowing that spring training, we’ll build him up as normal as we would any other time,” Girardi said. “I hope he has peace of mind. I’d hate for him to go through the winter and not have it. We asked him even when he came in after the game, ‘You sure you felt OK?’ He said, ‘I felt good. I just didn’t have it today.’”
So this will be the Yankees final image of Tanaka as they move through this offseason. Physically, it seems the injection-and-rehab protocol has helped the ligament, and the Yankees are as confident about his health as they could be given the circumstances.
So how does Tanaka evaluate his first year with the Yankees?
“My goal coming in this season was to stay healthy and keep a spot in the rotation,” he said. “So obviously I wasn’t able to do that. I was only able to do half a job, so with that said, I think I’m a little bit disappointed how the season was. … I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of expectations, but for me, I just try to go out on the mound and try to do the best I can. Try to put up a W. As far as comparing the first half of the season with next season, I feel like I want to do better than I did the first half of the season.”
• Two at-bats in tonight’s game was the plan all along for Jeter. It’s what he told Girardi he wanted. How many at-bats will he get tomorrow? “Whatever he tells me,” Girardi said. “He told me two at-bats today, so that’s what I did.”
• Kind of looked like Jeter might have hurt himself a little bit while beating out that infield single in the third inning. “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he had run extremely hard, he had to stretch. He probably felt it a little bit in his hamstring. He didn’t say that he was injured, but we’ll see.”
• This was Jeter’s 152nd career game at Fenway Park, matching Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig for the most games ever played here by a Yankees player. He should break that record tomorrow.
• This was the first time since August 11 that the Yankees allowed 10 runs or more. It was their 21st loss when scoring at least four runs.
• Ichiro Suzuki had another two-hit day and has hit safely in six of his past seven starts with a .360 average in that span. … Chase Headley also had two hits, his third multi-hit game in the past five. … Chris Young had two more hits including another double and another RBI. Turned out to be a nice addition for the final month of the season.
• As for the ESPN.com report about Girardi addressing the team on Thursday: “Let me clear this up,” Girardi said. “I’m going to clear it up right now. I addressed the team and told them what I expect for next year. Yeah, we’re all disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I addressed the team because it’s easier to do it at our ballpark. We need to be better. We need to execute better next year. That’s what baseball comes down to; execution. Everyone in that room is disappointed. I’m not the only one that’s disappointed. I just felt it was the place to do it. We have to go back to work.”
• According to the report, Girardi got on some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough. Girardi said he has no problem with the conditioning of his team, and as he’s said publicly all year, he said he’s been happy with the team’s work ethic and desire. “Our team never stopped playing, so I don’t know what you’re asking for,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is we didn’t execute well enough in certain situations, and we have to do better. Whether it’s getting a run in, getting a runner over, making a pitch when you need to make a pitch. We were in a lot of close games. If you could have won five or six more of them, you might be playing next week. Because we were in so many, there are probably some that you can think about. It’s disappointment.”
• Would the message have made a difference if it had been delivered several weeks ago? “I have had some individual meetings where I pull a guy aside and talk about things, but we were eliminated and I just told them,” Girardi said. “… These guys never gave up on us. They never gave up. They kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. We went through difficult things and they kept fighting and fighting. People wrote us off a bunch of times, but they didn’t. They kept fighting. For that, I’ve told you all along, I was proud of them. I just wanted to let them to know what we expect next year. None of us are happy that we’re not playing next week.”
• Final word we’ll give to Brian Cashman from pregame: “We didn’t hit for the most part all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position. We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. Pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense we could not fix.”
Associated Press photos
Game 161: Yankees at Red Sox • 09.27.14
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.47)
Tanaka vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (70-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
RHP Joe Kelly (3-2, 4.00)
Kelly vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., FOX
WEATHER: Absolutely beautiful day here in Boston. Couldn’t be much nicer.
UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Larry Vanover, 2B Angel Hernandez, 3B Paul Nauert
UPDATE, 2:01 p.m.: Tanaka out of the game having not lasted through the second inning. He was knocked around quite a bit here today. The Yankees are primarily concerned with his health — results don’t matter much — but this wasn’t nearly as good as his previous outing. Preston Claiborne in from the bullpen with the Red Sox already leading 5-0 on seven hits. Tanaka got just five outs. He threw 50 pitches, 25 strikes. Could have gone up to 80, but he was clearly laboring.
UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: And now an error on the new guy. Perez lets what should have been the final out bounce off his glove. It’s now 7-0.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Claiborne finally gets out of the second inning, but the damage is most certainly done. It’s a 9-0 Red Sox lead heading into the third.
UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: Jeter chops a ball up the middle for an infield single. Big ovation here at Fenway.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: Looks like Jeter is finished after two at-bats. Francisco Cervelli on deck to hit for the captain.
Today’s game might be another meaningless one in the standings, but it still carries weight for the Yankees. And all of that weight rests in Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow.
As long as the elbow holds up through 70 to 80 pitches, the Yankees will shut down their young ace and send him home for a fairly routine offseason.
“It should give me some confidence and just be able to go back home to Japan and work out the way I want to,” Tanaka said. “… I do really want to go out there again and check to see how my arm is. That’s kind of the main thing I’m looking for.”
This will be Tanaka’s second start since going through the injection-and-rehab protocol that the Yankees are hoping has at least temporarily fixed the torn ligament that will likely require Tommy John surgery should anything go wrong this afternoon. It’s a risk the Yankees feel they have to take. They have to test the ligament so that they have a better idea of what they have for next season.
“I still want to go out there and check to see how my arm, how my body is,” Tanaka said. “But obviously, compared to the first time, to last Sunday, no I’m not (concerned). There’s no fear or anything.”
What are the Yankees looking for this afternoon?
“Just a continuation of what we saw the other day,” Girardi said. “The command, the sharpness of his stuff. Obviously I won’t push him too far. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense at this point. But just that same stuff.”
And will one start be enough to leave Tanaka satisfied that he’s fully healthy?
“It’s what it is,” he said. “You can’t ask for another game, so I’m just going to go in there (today), see how it is and work based on that.”
Associated Press photo
Yesterday was the big test for Masahiro Tanaka, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that the Yankees got a final grade on his long-awaited return to the rotation. It was important not only that he pitch well, but that he feel good the day after.
“He was all smiles today, which was good,” Joe Girardi said. “He was doing his normal routine that he would do after any other start, so it’s all good news.”
Yesterday’s game was encouraging. So was today’s catch. Tanaka remains on track to start again on Saturday. These last few steps are all about testing Tanaka’s elbow as much as possible heading into the offseason. There’s no way to be 100 percent certain his ligament will hold up, the more steps he gets through, the better. Today was another small one.
“Just the fact that I was able to throw yesterday and the fact I’m feeling good today (is encouraging),” Tanaka said. “Having the start coming up on Saturday, if I come out from that strong, then obviously that’s a positive. From where I am right now, I should be able to have a good offseason of training that I want to do, and I should be good to go for next season.”
CC Sabathia also played catch today — his first official throwing session since knee surgery — which was another small but encouraging step for a Yankees rotation facing quite a bit of uncertainty heading into this offseason.
“And I think you can add another guy in there; Nova’s rehab has went extremely well,” Girardi said. “He has had zero setbacks and has progressed very, very well. Obviously CC has done well after this new knee surgery and we’re pleased about that. These guys play a very important role. Pitching is a huge part and when you have pitching you can stay in most games and have an opportunity to win them. When you get distance from your starters, your bullpen stays more rested and you can use them a little more different. It would be big for us.”
• Mark Teixeira got a third cortisone injection for his sore right wrist. He got it yesterday and said this injection was in a slightly different spot — “The first two shots were kind of inside the tendon sheath and this is outside the tendon sheath,” he said — and the hope is that he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Why get a third injection at this point? “You never want to end the season hurt,” he said. “You want to finish the season. Every game you can’t play, you make a lot out of it, but realistically, to take a couple days off and get it taken care of, play the last five or six games whatever it might be — it’s worth it.”
• Can Teixeira ever be a 150-game player again? “As many games as hopefully I can,” he said. “I never want to say I am going to play 150 games-plus again because, who knows? You never know what is going to happen. I know my wrist is going to be healthier next year. It’s going to be stronger. That’s all I can say because I’ll have that full offseason of working out and strengthening and not necessarily rehabbing.”
• Sabathia said he wants to build up to throwing a bullpen, then he’ll shut down and have a relatively normal offseason. He did 20 throws at 60 feet today. “We’re trying not to make it that much (different from a normal offseason),” Sabathia said. “I’ll come up here a few times a week, but as far as workouts and stuff, it should be a normal winter.”
• Maybe we already knew this and I just forgot about it, but Sabathia said today that he got a second stem-cell injection last month. “I haven’t (had an knee pain), not since I went back out there for (another) stem cell,” Sabathia said. “I think that was the end of August. It feels great. I haven’t had any problems in the workouts.”
• First time playing catch today? “I’ve kinda been throwing the football a little bit, and throwing at home,” Sabathia said. “So it feels good to come out here and not have to hide and throw.”
• The Yankees claimed OF Eury Perez off waivers and opened a roster spot by designating Josh Outman. “We acquired a young center fielder, left fielder, plays all over, from the Washington Nationals,” Girardi said. “With some of the nicked up position players we had, we felt it was probably in our best interest to (DFA) a pitcher. Outman had done a pretty good job for us. He’s a situational lefty, which are kind of difficult to use this time of year because every time you send a lefty to face a lefty, they put a right hander up because they have so many players. It becomes more difficult to use them.”
• Girardi said Carlos Beltran’s elbow is still bothering him. No update on Jacoby Ellsbury’s hamstring.
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “It’s a risk worth taking” • 09.19.14
When I got to the press box this afternoon, Masahiro Tanaka was already in the outfield doing long toss. He threw a bullpen yesterday, came through today’s catch with no problems, and remains on track to start Sunday. There’s a chance he could blow out his elbow in that start, which is oddly the point.
If the injection-and-rehab protocol has done its job, Tanaka’s elbow ligament should be good-to-go by now. And the Yankees need to find out whether that’s the case.
“Are you saying why not wait until next year?” manager Joe Girardi said. “Because we feel that if his arm is going to be OK, it’s going to be OK. And if it’s not, then we want to have (surgery) done so you don’t miss parts of two seasons, in a sense. Or it’d be three, possibly. If it was to (blow out) early next year, you miss part of this season, next and probably part of the following. So this way you know if it doesn’t work, you probably wouldn’t have him for next season. But if he would have had (surgery) in July or August, you probably wouldn’t have had him anyway. So it’s a risk worth taking.”
That was the idea from the beginning. Obviously the Yankees know they might be delaying the inevitable, but three different doctors recommended this approach, and Adam Wainwright is a notable example of a pitcher who put off Tommy John surgery for several years after showing a small ligament tear.
Giradi has explained the Yankees approach several times, but because of the player involved — and because of just how meaningless these last few games have become — the topic remains the source of much debate and plenty of questions. If this plan doesn’t work, the Yankees will have lost the opportunity to potentially have Tanaka past surgery and back in the rotation late next season. If his elbow blows out this weekend, he’ll surely be lost for all of next season.
But if the plan works, the Yankees just might postpone Tommy John surgery indefinitely.
“I think any time somebody talks about that area, there’s a high level of concern,” Girardi said. “There’s always the fear that they’re going to have surgery fairly quickly like Nova did. But so far, everything has been good in his rehab and we’ve been able to avoid it. So you hope that it continues. And I think you’re going to find out a lot more over the next eight days or whatever it is. There’s always concern when you see that.”
Girardi said he expects Tanaka to be available for 70-75 pitches on Sunday. If he comes through that game with no problems, he’ll make one more start this season before shutting down for the winter.
• Shawn Kelley isn’t very happy with the way Jose Bautista reacted to last night’s home run. I haven’t been able to find video of Bautista’s reaction online, but I saw it on MLB Network this morning. A lot of screaming and cursing, and then an emphatic slamming of the bat. “It’s a big situation,” Kelley said. “Emotions are high. If I get him out, I’d probably fist pump or something. That’s part of it. There’s emotions. But going back and watching the replay — because I was trying to watch the pitch, watch the video myself to learn from that — I kind of saw the reaction. Of course, I heard the cursing and stuff throughout running around the bases. I didn’t get it. … I didn’t understand the extent of that emotion, I guess. I guess I maybe took it a little bit personal like it was directed toward me. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but I don’t feel like that necessarily is the right thing to do in that situation.”
• Joe Girardi said he actually didn’t notice Bautista’s reaction to the homer, but Kelley said it left him feeling disrespected. “I was a little bothered by the way it went down last night,” Kelley said. “And I felt like it was OK for me to say something.”
• Here’s Girardi: “People are always going to take exception to when they feel that they’re being shown up. I understand that. Sometimes players do it intentionally, but most of the time they don’t. It’s become accepted in our world that you can do things when you do things well in sports. Years and years ago, it wasn’t accepted. So, the game has changed. But I’d have to see it to really understand it.”
• After losing his unborn son earlier in the week, Carlos Beltran is back in the Yankees lineup tonight. He rejoined the team yesterday. “I’m sure he’s out there with a heavy heart,” Girardi said. “I thought I’d give him yesterday and I would have used him yesterday if I felt there was a spot pinch hitting. But I just felt, you know sometimes, for athletes, for anyone, it’s good to get back out there, to doing what you’re used to doing and living that normal life. But obviously he’s got a a heavy heart, and we’ve got a heavy heart with him. But hopefully it helps getting him back out there.”
• The Yankees have eight walk-off wins this season, and Elias notes that each time, the walk-off at-bat has come from a player in his first year with the Yankees. Chase Headley’s done it three times, Brian McCann twice, and one apiece from Chris Young, Martin Prado and Beltran. “I think some guys have a knack for it, I do,” Girardi said. “Now obviously you have to be put in that situation, but again, I think it’s being able to relax in those moments to be able to do that. And some guys can really have a knack for it.”
• Probably the next-to-last start of the season for Hiroki Kuroda, which likely means the next-to-last start of his Yankees tenure. “He’s been the one constant that we’ve had (the past three years),” Girardi said. “And he’s been very good, and he’s had three good years for us. He’s been consistent and takes the ball on his turn. He’s been a big part of our rotation. It’s interesting. The oldest guy is the one still standing, which is kind of interesting. But he’s a true professional.”
Associated Press photos
Since six games back with 11 to go seems like a rather long shot for the Yankees, this homestand figures to be the last time we will ever see Derek Jeter play at Yankee Stadium outside of on Old-Timers’ Day.
“I just want to try to enjoy it,” Jeter said.
It’s a chance for the fans to say goodbye, with the home finale set for next Thursday night. Joe Girardi doesn’t expect an easy homestand for Jeter despite the love.
“I think it’s going to mean a lot, but I also think it’s going to be difficult, just because of what baseball has meant to his life and what the Yankees have meant to him and what he’s meant to this city,” Girardi said.
“I think it will be difficult for him emotionally. He’s probably not going to show a lot, but it’s hard to take this uniform off.”
It may be even harder on him come February.
“I think he’ll miss it in spring training,” Girardi said. “It becomes a reality that you’re not playing anymore, in a sense. I can’t speak for him and how he’s going to feel, but that was when it really hit me because I was used to doing something around February 15 and all of a sudden I didn’t have anything to do.”
Girardi said Carlos Beltran will be available despite the sad news that came Wednesday that he and wife Jessica had lost their unborn son, reportedly due to a miscarriage.
“My heart goes out to him, and obviously to his family,” Girardi said. “When guys go through this, I think sometimes people think we’re immune to problems because we’re professional athletes. We deal with things on an everyday basis and we go through issues, too. That’s the most difficult part. I just want to get a temperature of where he’s at when he comes in today and then we’ll go from there.”
Masahiro Tanaka threw 32 pitches in the bullpen in preparation for his return Sunday. We’re were told he had no pain.
“So far, so good,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.
After yesterday’s five innings against low-level minor leaguers, Masahiro Tanaka complained of no unusual pain or discomfort today and will step back into the Yankees rotation on Sunday. It’s entirely possible the game will be completely meaningless in the standings, but it will be Tanaka’s most significant test of an elbow ligament that was found to be slightly torn in early July.
“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major-league mound; pitch on the mound,” Tanaka said. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too.”
Joe Girardi made it clear that Tanaka will pitch Sunday even if the Yankees are mathematically eliminated at that point.
“Obviously he’s got to throw his bullpen again, which I don’t suspect will be a problem, but he’s got to do that,” Girardi said. “… He’s pitching if he’s OK.”
Roughly 70-75 pitches, Girardi said. It seems likely Tanaka would make one more start as long as Sunday goes as hoped.
“Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed),” Tanaka said.
• No surprise that Martin Prado is out of the lineup, but it was a mild surprise that Mark Teixeira’s not in there. It’s hit right wrist again. Girardi said it was bothering him the final game of last week’s home stand, but now it’s significant enough to keep him out of the lineup. “I told him, come see me when you’re ready to go again,” Girardi said.
• Girardi gave absolutely no indication that Teixeira will miss the rest of the season, but it seems worth wondering if that’s possible. “You’re hoping when you have the surgery (last year) that you’re healthy and you can play every day,” Girardi said. “But for whatever reason, it’s lingered with him. Maybe the offseason will help and he’ll get through it and we won’t have that problem. That’s my hope for next year.”
• As for Prado, he had the appendectomy this morning. “He had a stomach ache all day yesterday and played through it,” Girardi said. “He went right from here to (the hospital) to have the tests and they determined that he needed to have surgery.”
• To add similar defensive flexibility, the Yankees have called up Jose Pirela, but he hasn’t played since the end of the Triple-A season two weeks ago. “We’ll try to get him in there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done much for two weeks. We’ll work him out a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t just throw him in there one day.”
• Girardi said Francisco Cervelli got full medical clearance last night, but Girardi waited until today to get Cervelli back on the field. This is Cervelli’s first game action since those migraines earlier this month.
• This is another Michael Pineda start. He’s faced 102 consecutive batters without allowing a walk or a hit-by-pitch. He hasn’t walked anyone since August 20.
Associated Press photos
Today’s most important Yankees game isn’t the one happening tonight at Tropicana Field. The main event is happening this afternoon at the team’s spring training stadium where Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to pitch four innings against a bunch of low-level minor leaguers. It’s an instructional league game, and today’s lesson is all about the recovery of a torn elbow ligament.
“Command and health, to me, are what’s important,” manager Joe Girardi said.
If all goes well, today’s Tanaka tune-up could be his final step toward rejoining the Yankees rotation before the end of the season. There’s still time for him to get a start or two before the end of September, and if you’re holding out some hope for a playoff run, then Tanaka’s return is obviously short-term boost.
But 2015 is the bigger issue here. Getting Tanaka through today’s game and into a few regular-season games would go a long way toward giving the Yankees confidence that Tanaka’s elbow will be — or at least, might be — healthy and strong heading into next season.
Getting Tanaka into games would be the strongest indication that he’s capable of being the same pitcher the Yankees saw through the first half of this season.
“He’s got to throw all his pitches,” Girardi said. “The one thing people have talked about is, do you change your pitching style (because of the injury)? Well, that’s pretty hard to do. You’ve got to do what makes you successful. Last time out, he used all his pitches. He used all four pitches, and I expect him to do that on Monday.”
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “It didn’t work out well” • 09.10.14
This weekend, it seemed Martin Prado was basically through the woods. He wasn’t moving especially well, but he returned to the lineup with three hits on Saturday, played a full game again on Sunday, and it seemed his left hamstring injury was at least healed enough to make him regular again.
But he’s since had three days off, which suggests he’s either more badly hurt than originally believed, or it’s simply no longer worth taking the risk of putting him in the lineup.
“As he went through the weekend, what we saw, there was concern,” Joe Girardi said. “There’s still concern. It’s just talking to the training staff and the doctors, their thoughts.”
Here are Prado’s thoughts:
“To be honest with you, the way I see it, I tried to play when the team needs me to play,” Prado said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to miss four or five weeks or six weeks, a month, after this season if we clinch or not. I don’t want to spend that time waiting for my legs to heal because I can use that time to get ready for next season. The way I see it, I tried to play like that, and it didn’t work out well. That being said, I have to worry about my health and not push back and make that worse.”
Prado said his hamstring “didn’t feel right” after playing in those two weekend games. He was tight and unable to move at 100 percent. Prado was planning to take batting practice today, but it’s not likely he’ll be available even as a pinch hitter.
“I don’t want him to do too much running, as I told him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Go through BP, take some BP, see how you feel and we’ll go from there.’ As I said yesterday, there’s a concern there. I don’t think he’s ready to go, but we’re going to let him take some BP.”
• Obviously there’s also some lingering concern about Brett Gardner’s abdominal issue. When he had something similar earlier this season, Gardner missed just one game. This time, he hasn’t played since Friday. “He’ll be out a few more days at least because that can become something that’s fairly serious,” Girardi said. “We’re giving him a few more days and we’ll go from there.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw a bullpen on Friday and he’ll pitch in some sort of game at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa on Monday. The Yankees will be in Tampa for a Rays series that day, so it makes sense to send him to the complex.
• David Phelps has a bullpen today and seems likely to be activated on Friday. “Our hope is to bring him back maybe when we go to Baltimore,” Girardi said. “He threw a simulated game, and our hope is to bring him back in Baltimore. He would be in the bullpen, a guy that I could use an inning, inning-plus, then I’d have to give him some days off after that.”
• Brandon McCarthy will start the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. The second game’s starter will depend on who’s available. Girardi mentioned Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and Esmil Rogers as possibilities. “We could use a bullpen day if we have to,” Girardi said.
• Francisco Cervelli took batting practice on the field today. He’s been out with severe headaches.
• How does Girardi approach these final 20 games knowing most of baseball considers the Yankees to be realistically out of the playoff race? “It’s happened before,” he said. “It’s very difficult, but it’s happened before. You can only control the things you can control, so go control them. And then worry about where you fall later.”
Associated Press photos
The lingering uncertainty of Tanaka • 09.10.14
Ever since the doctors recommended an injection-and-rehab protocol for Masahiro Tanaka’s slightly torn elbow ligament, the Yankees have remained optimistic about getting him back into the rotation without surgery.
And now that he’s basically one rehab outing away from being activated, it’s starting to feel more and more likely that he’ll actually pitch again this season.
The hope is that a return this season, with a game or two at full-intensity, will be a reliable indication that Tanaka’s elbow has healed enough to step back into the rotation full-time next season. But this is fairly uncertain territory even in the best-case scenario.
“I think that’s always something you have to think about a little bit,” Joe Girardi said. “Once a guy has had an issue one time, could it be that it comes about again? Yeah, I think you have to worry about that. If he pitched in a big league game or two and felt good, you wouldn’t do surgery on a guy that felt good, that’s the bottom line. Our hope is that we get through this and that he’s a pitcher for us next year. That doesn’t mean that something couldn’t arise down the road, but that could happen to any of our pitchers.”
True. Sports Illustrated just ran an interesting article on the surge of Tommy John cases this season, and it included this sentence: “We can’t say whether baseball is in the midst of a true Tommy John epidemic or if we’re just better at diagnosing an injury that, silently, was just as prevalent in previous generations.” Right now, we don’t know simply that Tanaka has an elbow issue. We know specifically that there is (or at least, was) a small tear in his UCL. If you’re looking for a warning sign, that’s about as clear cut as it gets.
So the Yankees will have to manage Tanaka’s workload again next season.
“Carefully,” Girardi said. “I think you just have to see how he’s doing. The plan is you’re going to go to him every five days, but you have a built in off-day usually. Any time you can give him the extra day, obviously we’ll give him the extra day if he gets through this. It makes it difficult to start skipping people all the time; it’s difficult. It messes up your roster a lot of time. But if we have to, we will.”
If Tanaka finishes his rehab program and pitches in a couple of games at the end of the season, that might be the most reassurance the Yankees receive before heading into a winter that’s full of enough unknowns as it is.
“I think he wants to feel that he can go home and have a normal offseason,” Girardi said. “And he can be healthy and come back.”
Associated Press photo