It could be a matter of days before Ivan Nova is ready to begin a legitimate rehab assignment.
After throwing 47 pitches in an extended spring training start on Monday, Nova will get stretched out a little bit more this weekend before the Yankees settle on what exactly he’ll do next.
“They were really pleased with how he did,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s got one more down there, on Saturday, and we’ll go from there.”
When Nova does official begin a rehab assignment, it won’t necessarily take a step back to a pitch count resembling the start of spring training. Girardi said these extended-spring starts were designed to get him stretched out so that he could throw more pitches once he got into real games.
“He won’t have to go back to like 15 or 20 (pitches),” Girardi said. “This just allows us, in a sense, to build him up with more starts. When you’re coming off what he is, you want to make sure the command is there, so he should be able to give you a couple starts with a substantial amount of pitches. Whereas if you just did the 30 days (of a rehab assignment), you’d get one at 90.”
A few more injury updates:
He’s making a rehab start tonight with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, it seems Tanaka will need at least two more minor league starts before the Yankees would consider him stretched out enough to rejoin the big league rotation.
“It’s a decision that we’ll make after each start when we feel that he’s ready to go,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a number on it.”
So far, the Yankees have said only that Ellsbury has a sprained ligament on the outside of his right knee. They haven’t given a grade or any other clue about the severity. Even Ellsbury himself claims not to know for sure. Ellsbury will meet with Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday, at which point the team will presumably provide at least a few more details.
“This is not doom and gloom,” Girardi said. “It’s just hard to predict. We want him to see our doctors. This is a guy who’s running all over the place. He’ll be ready when he’s ready and hopefully it won’t be too long.”
Hit by a pitch to the hand way back on May 5, Petit still hasn’t even started hitting. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise and no break, but there’s still pain more than two weeks later.
“Hand’s still sore,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you get hit on those bones, and they don’t break, but that bone bruise, they’re painful.”
Friday will be two weeks since Martin last pitched. He’s been on the disabled list with right elbow tendonitis, but he’s been playing catch and is close to doing something more substantial. He’d become a fairly trusted reliever before the injury, so he could help solidify those middle innings.
“I think he’s supposed to throw maybe a bullpen at the end of the week,” Girardi said. “Saturday or Sunday.”
Having injured his calf in spring training, Ryan has now been through two setbacks, most recently for some level of heat exhaustion. The plan is for him to begin playing extended spring training games this week (he was actually supposed to start playing yesterday, but Girardi wasn’t sure whether that happened). At this point, it seems he’ll need a rather lengthy rehab. It’s been a long time since those spring training at-bats.
“He’s got to get some at-bats,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had consistent at-bats, so he’s got to get some at-bats.”
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka will make a rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. He will be scheduled for just 45 pitches, meaning this will be the first of multiple outings before Tanaka’s activated from the disabled list.
“It’s a decision that we’ll make after each start when we feel that he’s ready to go,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a number on it. Let’s just see how he does with 45 and decide what’s next after that.”
The Yankees won’t say how many starts they expect Tanaka to make in the minor leagues, but pitchers in this situation typically build up 15 pitches at a time. That suggests one start at 45 pitches, one at 60 and one at 75 before the Yankees would seem likely to even consider activating Tanaka. It’s pretty common for them to prefer going one more step and getting a pitcher to 90 pitches before taking him off the disabled list.
Would they really move at a faster pace with a guy like Tanaka?
“Let’s just go a start at a time,” Girardi said. “We know that we have to build him back up some. He has not been out that long, so he’ll go three and 45 and then we’ll decide what’s next.”
Tanaka said he feels encouraged. Ever since the forearm and wrist injuries that put him on the disabled list late last month, the Yankees’ ace has progress as planned. He threw another bullpen on Monday and came through it with no problems.
“Good progress,” Tanaka said. “Should be OK (on Thursday). … Can’t really tell (how many starts will be necessary). It’s something I’ll discuss with the pitching coach and the manager.”
Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have moved cautiously with Tanaka since spring training. There’s little reason to think they’ll sudden accelerate things at this point. If they’re starting at 45 pitches, then it seems they’re banking on at least three rehab starts, maybe four.
• Mark Teixeira’s toe feels fine, so he’s back in the lineup at first base, basically wiping out any chance of Alex Rodriguez starting tonight. “You can think about (playing him),” Girardi said. “But he hasn’t play a whole lot of field. (Chase Headley) just hit a three-run homer off a left-hander. I went with the guys that we’ve been running out there every day.”
• Of course, Rodriguez will be a go-to pinch hitter off the bench. “I’ll try to get him at-bats,” Girardi said. “I think that’s important to keep him going.”
• Also no Carlos Beltran in today’s lineup. That means the two guys who have spent the most time in the No. 3 spot in the batting order this season are on the bench tonight. “(Beltran)’s been playing well and he’s been swinging well,” Girardi said. “You get in a situation where you’re coming off an off day, your two guys at the top have done a great job against left-handers, Chris Young has done a great job against left-handers. But Carlos has been playing extremely well. In this long run, these two days might not hurt him, but it was hard to take him out today.”
• Chase Whitley had Tommy John surgery earlier today. Girardi said it went well, and there was basically no choice but to have the surgery. “The way I understood it, there were only a few fibers left,” Girardi said. “So maybe he had a couple pitches left and it would have been completely gone. It was the right choice on his part.”
• Brendan Ryan is supposed to resume playing games in Tampa tomorrow.
• When Chasen Shreve was in high school, he played on a travel team with Bryce Harper. The two remain pretty good friends and go golfing regularly in the offseason. “I thought he was more of a football player than a baseball player,” Shreve said. “When he played, he was just unreal. He played hard; he’s always played hard.”
• Shreve said he’s faced Harper only once. It was a minor league game a few years ago and Harper popped to shortstop. If Shreve faces him these next two days? “I don’t know how I’m going to react,” Shreve said. “I think we’re both going to smile.”
• One thing that struck me about Shreve talking about Harper: Shreve clearly likes him. In no way did this feel like a guy who felt he had to say nice things about a guy he knew growing up. It’s obvious Shreve really likes him and is happy for him.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees announced today that Masahiro Tanaka threw a 29-pitch bullpen at National Park in D.C. The emailed announcement included no mention of any issues, so I have to assume he came through it just fine.
Expectation is that Tanaka will begin a rehab assignment this week, probably on Thursday. Both Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are home on Thursday, and each has a TBA listed for that day’s starting pitcher, so the Yankees could send Tanaka to either top affiliate.
Last week, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he didn’t know whether Tanaka would need one or more minor league starts before being activated.
“I’m not sure,” Rothschild said. “We have to see how he is and if he’s rusty. If we think that he’ll need it, then we’ll do (more than one). If we think he’s OK, then we’ll figure it out from there.”
Associated Press photo
Jorge Posada doesn’t think Alex Rodriguez belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he seems unhappy that A-Rod beat him for the MVP award a dozen years ago.
“You know, the only thing that I can think is 2003,” Posada said during a interview with CBS This Morning. “You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second was either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But, I was almost there. You know what could’ve happened if, you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
All of this, of course, is because of Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs. Posada made his comments while promoting his new book.
“I think the guys that need to be in the Hall of Fame need to be a player that played with no controversy,” Posada said.
During the interview, Posada acknowledged he had never discussed any of this with Rodriguez, and in the Yankees’ clubhouse this afternoon, Rodriguez took the high road in responding to Posada’s criticism.
“I consider Jorgie a friend,” Rodriguez said. “… I have nothing bad to say about Jorgie. I have nothing but good things to say about Jorgie. He was a great player and a good teammate and we won a championship in ’09 together.”
For the most part, Rodriguez seems to have been embraced by many players throughout the league, and his current teammates seem to have accepted him with no problems.
“I’ve been so humbled by the response I’ve gotten, not only from my current teammates but from former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “The support that I’ve had is overwhelming and I just feel extremely grateful.”
Posada will be at Yankee Stadium later this season to have his number retired. Rodriguez said he will not find that inevitable encounter to be awkward.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Jorge is a friend. We’ll keep it simple. Keep it light.”
The video above is from this morning’s interview.
• Stephen Drew said that, in his entire life, he has never played third base in a game. He took some ground balls at the position yesterday, and now he’s starting there in a big league game. “I kind of know my role,” Drew said. “Yeah, it’s something new, but at the same time just trust my hands and my feet and go from there. That’s all you can really do. I’m not going to go over there and start stressing that I haven’t played. It’s just more reaction and hopefully I can do my job there.”
• Joe Girardi said he no longer considers Rodriguez to be a true backup at either third base or first base. He might play the field occasionally, but the Yankees want him to be a full-time designated hitter. “I’m thinking we’ll play him a lot more if we can DH him,” Girardi said.
• Rodriguez said he’s on board with being a full-time DH going forward. “I’m totally on board with whatever Joe wants,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said that from Day 1. Whatever Joe wants. I played third base in the ninth inning the other day and was pretty nervous about that. That was pretty alarming. Whatever Joe wants, I can do.”
• Jose Pirela actually has some third base experience, but the Yankees clearly don’t like him at the position. Asked why he’s using Drew at third ahead of Pirela, Girardi said only: “We just felt that Stephen will make the adjustment easier than Jose.”
• Rodriguez said his sore left hamstring feels better today. Obviously he’s been able to play through the issue. Doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, but Girardi said he was especially hesitant to use Rodriguez at third while the hamstring is even a mild issue.
• Chase Headley doesn’t have a specific injury, Girardi said, but he’s taken a beating lately with diving plays and such. “He’s just beat up,” Girardi said. “All the diving that he does. He just kind of physically could use a day, so we decided to do it today.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw another bullpen on Friday.
• The Yankees are still deciding whether to have Chris Capuano make another rehab start or activate him in a few days to rejoin the rotation. Two off days next week really takes some of the urgency away. The rotation is about to get extra rest regardless. “We just kind of touched on (discussing Capuano’s play) today,” Girardi said. “I talked to Cash. I talked to Larry some. Obviously we want to see how he feels physically and have a chance to talk to him. We’ve got to make a decision. It’s not urgent that we make it today or tomorrow, but we’ll probably have him throw a side tomorrow and have him be on line depending on what we do.”
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen this afternoon. He threw all of his pitches, said his forearm and wrist felt fine, and he’ll wait until tomorrow to decide what’s next in his return from a mild strain and light tendonitis. There’s a little bit of video above catching some of the final pitches from the session.
“Didn’t feel anything,” Tanaka said. “But just want to see how I feel tomorrow and make sure I’m OK. … I don’t feel I need to go back to what I’ve been doing in spring training. When I was on the mound, I felt good on there so I shouldn’t be too far from me coming back.”
Tanaka indicated that he expects to make at least rehab start, but he said he’s really not sure how many he’ll need, and he’s not sure when that process will start.
“I’ve got to see how I do in my first rehab start,” Tanaka said. “Probably get a feel for where I’m at once I throw that first start. Obviously I have to see how the coaches, manager, see how I do. It kind of all depends on that.”
Any plan to adjust which pitches he throws and how often he throws them in the wake of this latest injury?
“Never thought about that,” Tanaka said.
The Yankees’ ace takes his turn this afternoon, and everyone knows it except — perhaps — the man himself.
With Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list and CC Sabathia still looking for his first win, the Yankees No. 1 starter is clearly Michael Pineda. Joe Girardi talks ofter about a team’s ace being whoever is starting on any given day, and that’s a nice idea, but there’s something to be said for a true powerhouse at the top of the rotation.
And after years of waiting for him to get healthy, the Yankees seem to have that in Pineda.
“I think when you look at your starters, you think about how it relates to the bullpen in a sense and how deep they’re going to go into games,” Girardi said. “And he’s one of those guys, who, because he throws so many strikes, and gets ahead in the count, he can go deep into games and you don’t use your bullpen as much. I think people always put those things together as, that’s an ace of the staff, too. Do I think different (on days Pineda pitches)? Yeah, I think sometimes you’re going to get a little more length, but you’re still going to need your bullpen.”
Sabathia has always talked about his responsibility as a veteran rotation leader, and surely Tanaka can’t help but notice the attention and expectation that he carries each time he’s on the mound, but Pineda takes a different attitude. He comes across as a carefree guy, basically the same attitude this year that he had last season when he opened as the No. 5.
“My guess is he doesn’t really think much about it,” Girardi said. “My guess is he just goes out there every fifth day, does his job, loves to compete, has fun, entertains us with some of the things he does out there. My guess, and I have not heard him talk about it – but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t – is that he doesn’t think about it.”
• Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after sitting out yesterday with some leg tightness. Would Girardi prefer his 39-year-old just stop at second next time he has a chance to stretch for a triple? “If you can get there, you want a guy to get there, since there are so many other ways to score from third base,” Girardi said. “But I would tell him just to hit the ball over the fence.”
• Tanaka played long toss again today. Seemed to have no issues.
• One day after both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were unavailable because of workload, the Yankees would like another game when they don’t need to use their bullpen too much. Only Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter had to pitch out of the pen yesterday. “We were able to get some of the guys a day off yesterday,” Girardi said. “But it’d be nice to get them another day off today.”
• There have been some positive signs with Pineda’s velocity lately. He’s been average up around 93 mph the past two times out — close to 94 mph last time — after sitting closer to 90-91 his first few starts. “I think some of that has to do with weather,” Girardi said. “Some of the days he’s pitched, have not been ideal conditions, and I think as you see the weather warm up — he pitched in a dome the last time – you’ll see the velocity come with it.”
• I was off the first two home Sundays this season. I’d kind of forgotten how quiet these days are pregame. Very few players in the clubhouse before batting practice. Nothing unusual going on during BP. Today there are a lot of pink shirts being worn, but otherwise, it’s just another slow Sunday morning at the stadium.
Associated Press photos
Another day of throwing a baseball with no incident for Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t seem particularly newsworthy, expect when you consider that this is Tanaka that we’re talking about.
After throwing 50 pitches from 60 feet on Thursday, Tanaka threw 25 from 60 feet and another 25 from 90 on Friday. He spoke to the media after and said he’s “definitely going in the right direction,” and he seemed fairly unconcerned about any long-term effects from this forearm strain. He also reiterated that he doesn’t think that this relatively minor injury has anything to do with the elbow that caused problems for him last season.
“Everybody has their own opinion, but personally, I don’t think it had anything to do with it,” he said through his interpreter. “I don’t think it has anything to do with my elbow.”
Of course, there has been rampant speculation about Tanaka eventually — some might say inevitably — needing Tommy John surgery, but he isn’t buying it. He’s repeatedly said that there is no discomfort in the elbow. He said he’s “gradually” increased the intensity in these throwing sessions the last two days and feels nothing in the forearm, either.
He also denied that the injury was caused by the way that he’s throwing the splitter, or because of pitching on four days’ rest instead of the five that he was accustomed to in Japan.
The only thing that he agreed with is that the process has been somewhat frustrating.
“Just to be honest with you, I did get injured from time-to-time in Japan,” Tanaka said. “But my absolute goal is to try to not get injured throughout the season and be apart of that rotation. With that said, I’m a little disappointed.”
• While the rotation has held up well in the absence of Tanaka, the bullpen continues to be the strength of the team. Andrew Miller, who may not have the official closer title but is pitching as well as any reliever in baseball, is looking like a very smart investment. He’s up to 12 saves. “I think he’s approached it just like any other inning that he’s pitched,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s done an unbelievable job for us. He’s really kind of kept his pitch count down in most instances when we use him multiple days in a row. He’s a strikeout guy who can hold runners on when they do get on. He’s really done a great job. Every time that we saw him, we saw him good, so I’m not surprised that we’re seeing what we’re seeing.”
• Girardi has been criticized for over-managing and not trusting his gut often enough, but he’s generally praised for the way that he handles his bullpen. It has to be nice having the type of weapons that he has down there this season, and that surely makes his job easier. But he does deserve some credit for putting guys in spots where they can be successful and rarely overusing them. “I kind of have in my mind some rules that I follow, depending on how much they’ve worked – multiple innings, days in a row, three out of four, how many pitches, quick turnaround – and I’ve been consistent with those ever since I’ve been here,” he said. “I usually let them know when they’re down so that they’re not over-preparing and maybe playing more catch than they should be, that sort of thing. The goal is, for me, it’s more than a one year term. It’s a long-term thing. We want these guys to be effective for a long time, and I’ve kind of stayed true to that.”
• Many of you are probably happy to see Jose Pirela in there at second base today. He’s become popular among the fan base, in large part due to the struggles of Stephen Drew. But Girardi said this is just a day off for Drew. He’ll be back in there tomorrow. “I think his last day off was Saturday in Fenway, so it’s a day off of him,” Girardi said. “Then (Gregorio Petit) will probably play second tomorrow against the lefty and maybe we’ll give Didi(Gregorius) a day off.”
• We discussed plenty about A-Rod last night, so it wasn’t a huge focus during Girardi’s presser today. But he was asked about if he thinks the next milestone in his path — he’s 38 away from 3,000 hits — will be more acceptable in the baseball world because it’s not a power statistic. I guess the idea is that steroids are more beneficial when it comes to home runs and that sort of thing, but I can’t imagine anyone suddenly overlooking his past PED issues for his hit total and not his home run total. “Obviously, it’s a ton of hits,” Girardi said. “You have to have a lot of longevity to come up with 3,000 hits. You know, this is going to be debated for years to come, I’m sure. But my job as the manager is to get the most of the players. My job is not to decide if something is a milestone or an accomplishment – that’s for baseball people to do and historians. My hope is that he gets it fairly quickly and the hits keep coming, and the home runs keep coming.”
• Girardi followed that question up by asking how far away Rodriguez is from 3,000. When he was told 38, he said, “You can see how closely I’m following.” Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo suggested that A-Rod get to 3,000 tonight. That would probably take about 100 innings, so for my sake, I hope not.
Associated Press photos
This is the first Yankees off day in two weeks, and the fact is, they’ve played very well in those two weeks.
Sure, they missed out on an opportunity to finish off a sweep on Wednesday, but their bullpen has been incredible, parts of their lineup have shown real signs of life, and their defense has been much better than it was in that ugly first week of the season.
Even so, as the Yankees take a break before a weekend series at Fenway, it’s hard to start this day with anything but Masahiro Tanaka.
In the smaller picture, he’s a pitcher with a wrist injury so minor it doesn’t show up on tests, and with a forearm strain so mild he can’t even feel it. If it were only one minor injury or the other, Tanaka might miss two or three starts and get right back into the mix. Even taken together, these injuries in a vacuum might not raise red flags of trouble ahead.
But, of course, any Tanaka injury cannot be taken in a vacuum.
“There’s concern,” Joe Girardi said. “There has to be concern.”
This is the obvious reality of pitching through a minor ligament tear in hopes of avoiding a major surgery. Any arm injury — just like any lack of velocity, any change of mechanics, any adjustment of approach — feels like a sign of something more significant coming around the bend.
Medical experts told the Yankees that avoiding surgery was the best course of action last season. There were enough success stories around baseball to suggest it was worth trying, and most signs were positive until Tanaka showed up on Tuesday and said his wrist hurt.
But the wrist is connected to the forearm, and the forearm is connected to the elbow, and even if the current problem isn’t an elbow issue by definition, it’s not hard to connect the hypothetical dots. It feels once again as if Tommy John surgery is just a matter of time, and that time might come soon.
“Could be,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “I couldn’t tell you. No one can answer the question. The bottom line, regardless of the elbow history that he currently has, if anybody else came in with this complaint that’s in our bullpen or in our rotation had this finding, we’d go the safe route.”
That’s what the Yankees call this DL stint. It’s the safe route. The current Tanaka injuries aren’t especially debilitating, but there’s little sense taking additional risk with an arm that’s carrying too much risk as it is. So Tanaka has been shut down, and the search is on for any sort of cause and effect.
Was the forearm strain caused by pitching on a cold day in Detroit? Was the wrist soreness caused by pitching on normal rest for the first time this season?
“Does it have anything to do with Detroit?” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you 100 percent no, (but) he didn’t tell us that he felt something after Detroit. We didn’t know until (Tuesday), and he went out and threw his bullpen (on Sunday). I know if he felt it before that, he wouldn’t have done his bullpen, and we would have had it tested before.”
If the injuries weren ‘t caused by Tanaka’s last start, perhaps last season set them in motion. Did compensating for the elbow put extra strain on the forearm and extra stress on the wrist?
“I am a manager; I am not a doctor,” Girardi said. “So I don’t understand the mechanics of all that. As I said yesterday, there’s going to be speculation. Are they related? I can’t tell you that. I don’t know. Could be. It may not be.”
That’s the reality of this entire situation; a possible answer to every question.
Were these injuries caused by Tanaka’s last start? Are the issues separate from his lingering elbow situation? Will this lead to more problems down the road? Can the Yankees count on Tanaka to come back as good as new?
Could be. It may not be.
Associated Press photos
At this time yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka has still not told the Yankees about his sore wrist. He hadn’t gone for the MRI that revealed a strained forearm, and he hadn’t received the diagnosis that spark renewed questions about his elbow and ability to avoid Tommy John surgery.
“When he came up and said his wrist hurt, I was like, wow,” Joe Girardi said. “Cause the starts were good, the bullpen session was good, and I wasn’t prepared for that. So that’s why I used the word a little shocked when I heard because everything had went great.”
Michael Pineda was actually supposed to throw a bullpen yesterday and Girardi stopped him in the early afternoon, explaining he might have to pitch today instead. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After those first four starts this season, things were actually encouraging with Tanaka. He’d pitched especially well in the past two starts, and he’d complained of no soreness in his elbow or anywhere else. Now that we know the newest injuries, though, it’s hard to think of Tanaka in any other context. Sure, he was pitching well, but the Yankees have known for a long time that Tanaka’s capable of pitching well. But that’s only when he’s healthy enough to actually be on the mound.
“Is there concern? Of course there is,” Girardi said. “Anytime you have to shut a pitcher down, there’s concern. With what happened last year, I can’t tell you if they’re related or not, but you’re going to think about it. You’re going to think about a lot of different scenarios. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope it’s not much, but we’ll deal with it either way.”
Initially, when Tanaka was only complaining about a little wrist soreness, Girardi was thinking it might be a two-week issue.
“My recommendation was kind of a DL there and he would come back as soon as those 15 days were up because you could back-date it,” Girardi said. “And we were already 5 or 6 days. So with the little bit of a strain (as well), it’s definitely DL.”
That’s the only thing that’s certain for now. Tanaka is definitely on the disabled list. How long he’ll stay there and how soon he’ll be back on it remains anyone’s guess.
• Would Girardi like to see Alex Rodriguez get No. 660 out of the way before this weekend’s series at Fenway? “It just might crowd our clubhouse a little bit more if he doesn’t,” Girardi said. “But it doesn’t matter either way. I’d prefer that he does it with two or three guys on today and gets it over with.”
• Even with another starter added to the disabled list, Girardi said he’d still consider using a spot starter during this next long stretch of games. Wonder if Bryan Mitchell might come up for a start in the next week or so.
• The Yankees have gotten eight scoreless innings out of their bullpen the past two days, but Girardi said the pen is still rested enough to handle today’s game. They’d like to get distance out of Michael Pineda, but it’s not a dire situation. “I think that’s important,” Girardi said. “But our bullpen’s OK. It helps that we have a day off tomorrow, I think that’s important. The only guy that I’d probably stay away from is Esmil.”
• Will the late change of plans impact Pineda today? “It shouldn’t be a factor,” Girardi said. “It probably won’t hurt him at all.”
• Around 10:30 this morning, Gregorio Petit walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse carrying the same bag he took out of the clubhouse yesterday. Teammates were laughing and offering hugs. A bizarre welcome back moment for a guy who barely left.
• Just a day off for Brett Gardner and Brian McCann against a left-handed starter.
• Because these seem a little more relevant now, here’s a quick update on Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano: Each one last pitched on Monday. Nova threw a simulated game, and Capuano pitched in extended spring training. Neither is ready to come off the disabled list just yet, obviously. “They did well,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure if the next step, because it was a shorter outing, if it’s Friday or Saturday.”
Associated Press photos
First, the basics of what’s going on with Masahiro Tanaka:
He’s going on the disabled list tomorrow, and the Yankees will keep Chase Whitley in the rotation. Michael Pineda will start tomorrow’s game on regular rest, and it sounds likely Gregorio Petit will be activated just one day after being optioned (the Yankees can do that since it’s a reaction to a player going on the disabled list). Now, onto the bigger questions.
What exactly happened to Tanaka’s forearm?
The short answer is, it seems no one is entirely sure. Tanaka said he felt fine after Thursday’s start in Detroit, and Brian Cashman said there were actually rave reviews about Tanaka’s bullpen on Sunday. Cashman said there was some early speculation — before the MRI results came in — that maybe some of the torque from that bullpen caused Tanaka to aggravate something in his wrist, but the tests actually came back negative in the wrist. The forearm issue that was discovered is incredibly mild and Tanaka never complained about it.
“He has the wrist complaint, but that led us to run into something else,” Cashman said. “So when you package it all together, we’re taking the safe conservative route. He has no complaint of his elbow, none, and he physically tests out fine with the elbow. I think he was surprised about the very small (strain) — and I stress small, I can’t even call it a Grade 1 — the very small signal in the forearm muscles. The combination of the tendinitis in the wrist — he throws that split finger — with the signal on the forearm muscle, Dr. Ahmad recommended the disabled list.”
Tanaka dismissed the idea that pitching on normal rest caused the issue, and Cashman repeatedly stressed that there’s been no physical change in the elbow, though it’s impossible for anyone to rule out the idea that this issue might be somehow related to the lingering elbow issue in one way or another.
What does this mean for Tanaka’s elbow?
In the short term, nothing. I guess it means the elbow is going to get some unexpected rest, but ultimately the Yankees don’t seem to be approaching this as an elbow issue, and certainly not as an issue that changes their approach to Tanaka. They’re shutting him down to make sure this issue doesn’t spread to the elbow ligament.
“We want to make sure that we protect, obviously, the elbow because obviously the forearm protects the elbow,” Cashman said. “We want to make sure that this doesn’t lead to the more horrific problems that we’re trying to avoid.”
Tanaka said he doesn’t consider this to be an elbow issue. His wrist hurt, and he found out his forearm was slightly injured. That’s the immediate medical reality. The bigger medical reality is that the elbow is an issue that will linger over everything. The Yankees have treated Tanaka differently because of the elbow, and now they’re taking a typically cautious approach in an effort to further protect the elbow. This is nothing new, and Cashman said he still has no regrets about the way the Yankees have handled Tanaka’s health.
“Absolutely no regret because we’re following the medical directives,” Cashman said. “I can’t remember any time we’ve ever gone against doctors’ orders. Why would we? They’re the experts. We follow what they prescribe.”
What will the Yankees change going forward?
It seems, not much. Cashman said the team would have reacted the same way should any pitcher get this diagnosis at this point in the season. They’re typically conservative, and they follow their doctors’ advice, and so Tanaka is being shut down for seven to 10 days before beginning the slow return.
“Nothing really big came out from the MRI or anything,” Tanaka said. “So I feel that I can come back strong.”
Joe Girardi has said since spring training, and he said again today, that the Yankees won’t ask Tanaka to stop throwing his split-finger because the split-finger is a big part of what makes Tanaka effective. It’s just a cost of doing business. He’d been throwing splits since early spring, and there was no issue until today, and even today’s issue seems relatively minor and so far seems to come with no additional damage to the elbow. Pitchers get hurt, and so far, this pitcher’s been hurt quite a bit in his year-plus with the Yankees. There’s surely some relief that this isn’t an elbow issue, but it’s still an issue.
“The fact that I’m talking to you right now, I don’t feel like is a good thing,” Cashman said. “It’s good that the elbow is fine as of right now, and there’s no change there. Listen, I wanted him to make his next start (before discovering the injury), but we’re going to do the right course of action to make sure when he’s on that mound he’s able to be the best he can possibly be. Could he pitch? He can take the ball. Should he pitch? We’ll have to wait until he’s 100 percent.”
• After Chase Whitley pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, I tweeted that there was basically no circumstance in which Whitley would not be optioned tomorrow morning. Even if he pitched a complete game, I joked, he would still be sent down. Then this happened. “Right now he’s in our rotation,” Girardi said. “He will be here tomorrow.”
• Whitley nearly made the Yankees out of spring training, and tonight he finally got here and allowed one run through five innings. He pitched out of jams, struck out five, walked one and seems to made the most of this opportunity. “It feels good to be able to go out tonight and do my job,” Whitley said. “I’m not trying to look ahead to anything else, just pitch when and where they tell me to pitch.”
• Whitley was spot starting, and both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were unavailable after pitching the past two nights, and the pitching staff still allowed just two runs with 12 strikeouts. “To do what they did tonight, they’re pitching in roles that they’re not accustomed to, and they’re all thriving,” Brian McCann said.
• Chris Martin got the first save of his big league career. He’s been a really nice find early in the season. “I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t (feel different in the ninth),” Martin said. “It was a little nerve racking, but I settled down there for the first hitter.”
• Interesting that Girardi went with Martin instead of David Carpenter in the ninth. Girardi said he was saving Carpenter for just in case the Rays came back to tie the game and force extra innings. With Miller, Betances and Justin Miller having each pitched back-to-back games, Carpenter would have been the last line of defense.
• Esmil Rogers went 2.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and one hit. He struck out half the batters he faced. He’s really been terrific in that long relief role. “A tremendous outing out of Esmil Rogers,” Giradi said. “Comes in with a runner on third and one out and gets two outs; strikes out the first guy, Beckham, then gets a ground out and gets us to the ninth inning. And then Martin does a really good job as well.”
• Three consecutive 10-strikeout games for the Yankees pitching staff. They have 11 games of 10 or more strikeouts this season, the most in the big leagues.
• Another big night at the plate for McCann who had two doubles and three RBI. Last night he had the big home run. “I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good all season long, to be honest with you. Hits are starting to fall and I’m finding the barrel.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury had his team-high eighth multi-hit game of the season. Since April 22 he’s hitting .429 with six runs and four stolen bases in six games.
• Ellsbury stole two bases tonight. Brett Gardner stole one. Those two are each hitting over .300 at the top of the order.
• Jose Pirela continued his Double-A rehab assignment and went 0-for-3 as Trenton’s starting second baseman. He was pulled for a defensive replacement in the bottom of the sixth, which I would assume is because the original plan was to have Pirela activated for tomorrow’s game in New York. Instead, Cashman said he’s expecting to bring back Petit.
• Final word goes to Girardi on Tanaka: “I was shocked because he said it was his wrist, and we had heard nothing in the five days that had led up to this. He threw his bullpen as scheduled he was ready to go tomorrow, so I was like, wow, it’s not what I expected. … We’re hoping that he gets the time off and he’s completely healthy. That’s what we’re hoping. It’s different than what he dealt with last year. He didn’t say nothing until today and he said that it was sore, he didn’t say it was bad. I was shocked when I heard it. It is what it is and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Associated Press photos