Injury Updates: Tanaka, Nova, Capuano, Ryan, Lail

Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Same. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Rays continue their four-game series with the second game at Tropicana Field later tonight. Until then, here are some updates on injured Yankees, courtesy of Chad Jennings, George King, and Bryan Hoch.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session as scheduled this afternoon. It was his first time throwing off a mound since landing on the DL two weeks ago. Tanaka threw all of his pitches and everything went well. The Yankees are going to see how he feels tomorrow before determining the next step.
  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw 33 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game earlier today. Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild were among those in attendance at the team’s complex in Tampa. “I was a little bit excited. It felt like I was doing too much. I guess I was trying to impress the manager and the pitching coach. I don’t know why,” said Nova, who will pitch in another ExST game on Monday.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw six innings and 90 pitches for Triple-A Scranton tonight. It’ll be his third and maybe last minor league rehab game. “We shouldn’t really need to see much more than that,” said Girardi. “We’ll make that determination on how he feels, but it’s possible (he could be activated for his next start), yeah.”
  • Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) was able to take batting practice yesterday. There’s still no firm timetable for a rehab assignment, let alone a return from the DL. Ryan started the season on the DL with a calf injury before pulling his hamstring a few days ago.
  • Brady Lail, who was hit in the head by a line drive in last night’s Double-A Trenton game, said he is fine on Twitter. Seems like he escaped with no major injuries, which is a minor miracle. Great news. That was scary.

Blister forced Luis Severino to exit Sunday’s start after two innings

(Trenton Thunder)
(Trenton Thunder)

Right-hander and top pitching prospect Luis Severino was forced to exit Sunday afternoon’s start with Double-A Trenton after only two innings due to a blister, Brian Cashman confirmed to Dan Martin. There’s no word on whether he will make his next start. We’ll find out soon enough.

Severino, 21, allowed four runs on five hits in his two innings before exiting, though his performance could have easily been affected by the blister. Can’t throw the ball the way you want if you can’t grip it properly, right? Severino threw 42 pitches in the two innings and figured to remain in the game had the blister not been an issue.

So far this season Severino has a 3.86 ERA (2.87 FIP) in six starts and 28 innings, all with Trenton. His strikeout (28.1%), walk (6.6%), and ground ball (48.7%) rates are all very good and it’s only a matter of time until his .355 BABIP returns to normal. I’m not too concerned about the relatively high ERA right now.

That said, the somewhat slow start has likely put an end to any thought of calling Severino up in the first half. Chase Whitley has been serviceable overall in his three starts, Bryan Mitchell is waiting in Triple-A, and Chris Capuano is about a week away from returning, so the Yankees have some pitching depth. There’s no temptation to rush Severino now.

Blisters can be very tricky. Severino could be ready to start later this week or the blister could sideline him for a few weeks if it’s particularly nasty. Both Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos missed several weeks with blister issues when they were with Trenton years ago, for example.

Sucks Severino is hurt, but it is only a blister, and in the world of pitching injuries, that’s as tame as it gets. Gotta build up those calluses, Luis.

Yankees place Chris Martin on 15-day DL with right elbow tendinitis

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have placed right-hander Chris Martin on the 15-day DL with right elbow tendinitis, the team announced. The move was made before this afternoon’s game. Fellow righty Branden Pinder was called up to replace Martin on the roster.

Martin, 28, has a 3.55 ERA (2.05 FIP) in 12.2 innings this season, though he’s struggled his last three times out and it could be related to the elbow issue. Martin missed some time with elbow inflammation in Spring Training last year and had major shoulder surgery years and years ago. Martin’s velocity has been fine recently, no red flags there.

The Yankees didn’t give a timetable for Martin’s return. Pinder gets the first opportunity to replace him, but the team could also turn to Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Jose Ramirez, or a few others. Chris Capuano is also close to returning from a quad injury, which would lead to Chase Whitley or Adam Warren moving to the bullpen.

Update: Following this afternoon’s game, Martin told reporters he first felt discomfort after the series with the Rays last week. So yeah, the timing of the injury coincides perfectly with his recent struggles.

Andrew Bailey close to starting throwing program after being shut down with shoulder strain

(NY Post)
(NY Post)

A little more than one week after being shut down with a right shoulder strain, right-hander Andrew Bailey is a few days from starting a throwing program, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty. “He’s trying to do almost the impossible,” said Cashman, referring to Bailey’s attempt to return from a torn shoulder capsule, a very severe injury.

Bailey, 30, was shut down with discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder after pitching in back-to-back games with High-A Tampa. Bailey made six appearances in Spring Training and had a 5.40 ERA (3.59 FIP) with seven strikeouts and one walk in five innings with Tampa before being shut down. It was the first time he pitched in back-to-back games as part of his rehab.

Obviously the Yankees aren’t counting on Bailey to help in any way this year. Anything he gives them is a bonus, and they have enough bullpen depth in Triple-A that they don’t need to count on him. The Yankees took a low-risk flier and gave Bailey a minor league contract, so if he can help, great. If not, they’ve lost nothing.

Now, that said, Bailey could give the Yankees a nice shot in the arm, especially now that Chris Martin appears to be coming back to Earth and David Carpenter couldn’t be any further outside the Circle of Trust™. Another right-hander wouldn’t hurt. There’s a spot for Bailey in the bullpen if he manages to stay healthy and show he can produce.

Yankees have rotation help on the way with Nova not far behind Capuano on rehab trail

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, left-hander Chris Capuano threw 72 pitches across 4.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton in his second minor league rehab start as he works his way back from a spring quad injury. Earlier this week Joe Girardi told George King they “would like to get (Capuano) to 90 pitches and see where we are at” before activating him off the DL, so Capuano figures to make at least one more rehab start before joining the Yankees.

Ivan Nova also continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery yesterday, throwing two innings in an Extended Spring Training game. Girardi told reporters everything went fine and Nova remains on track to join the team sometime in June. He could throw in another ExST game or two before beginning an official 30-day minor league rehab stint. Nova’s rehab has gone extremely well to date. No issues whatsoever.

Between Capuano and Nova, the Yankees have a pair of starting pitchers on the rehab trail and not too far from factoring into the MLB pitching staff. That doesn’t even include Masahiro Tanaka, who resumed throwing yesterday. It seems like Capuano will return first with Nova and Tanaka returning around the same time in a few weeks. Obviously lots can go wrong between now and then, but at least things are going well now.

Fitting them back onto the staff is a classic “worry about it when the time comes” situation. Chase Whitley has pitched well in his two starts yet we saw last year how quickly that can unravel. Adam Warren has pitched well enough in his first stint as a full-time starter but the numbers confirm what our eyes seem to be telling us — going through the lineup the second and third time has been a bit of a problem. Who knows what the rotation will look like in a week or two.

“It just gives us a lot more depth, which I think is really important during the course of a long season,” said Girardi to Vince Mercogliano yesterday, referring to Capuano and Nova moving closer to a return. The rotation has been fine overall, with the non-Michael Pineda starters typically doing just enough to keep the Yankees in the game. Capuano and Nova may or may not improve things, but at least they’ll give the Yankees options, something they’re running short on at the moment.

Tanaka resumes throwing, makes 50 throws from 60 feet

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Last week the Yankees placed ace Masahiro Tanaka on the 15-day DL with wrist tendinitis and a supposedly minor forearm strain. At the time, Brian Cashman said the right-hander would be shut down 7-10 days before resuming baseball activities.

It has now been eight days since Tanaka was placed on the DL, and this afternoon Tanaka threw for the first time since getting hurt. He played catch and made 50 throws at a distance of 60 feet, so it was nothing intense, but this is only the first step. Tanaka reported no problems and I assume he’ll throw again at some point this weekend.

Tanaka, 26, was unhappy with being placed on the DL because the doctors said the injury was very minor, according to Jon Heyman. The Yankees decided to play it safe for obvious reasons. Cashman confirmed the MRI showed no damage to Tanaka’s elbow ligament, but still, forearm strains tend to lead to ligament problems, so this injury is a red flag.

Tanaka is expected to “conservatively” miss a month between being shut down and getting built back up again, though of course the Yankees are going to be very careful with his rehab no matter what kind of shape the MLB rotation is in. Chris Capuano may only be another week away from returning and Ivan Nova‘s about a month away as well.

Thoughts following Masahiro Tanaka’s injury

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees won for the tenth time in 12 games last night, clinching their fourth straight series win, yet it was a bad day for the team overall. Masahiro Tanaka unexpectedly went down with wrist tendinitis and a “small” forearm strain, injuries that will “conservatively” keep him out for a month according to Brian Cashman. This is bad. This is a very bad thing. So I have thoughts to share.

1. There is no such thing as a “small” or “minor” or “slight” forearm strain for Tanaka. Forearm strains are very common precursors to Tommy John surgery and he already went through the whole partially torn elbow ligament thing last year. The wrist issue is whatever. The forearm strain is the real concern. I’m one of those people who think the Yankees and Tanaka absolutely did the right thing last year by rehabbing the ligament tear. Do exactly what the doctors recommend. Coming back from Tommy John surgery is hard. We never know the full story with injuries, all we know is what is what the team is willing to tell us, and based on everything we know about Tanaka’s elbow, I think trying to avoid surgery was an easy call. This new forearm strain doesn’t change that. It’s a scary injury given his situation, there’s no arguing that, but it doesn’t make the decision to rehab the injury the wrong one in my opinion. Listen to the doctors! That’s common sense, right?

2. As we’ve seen the last few years, the Yankees are not the type of team that will go out and make a knee-jerk trade following Tanaka’s injury. They’ll cycle through their internal options first before going outside the organization for help. When Ivan Nova got hurt last year, Vidal Nuno stepped in. When CC Sabathia went down, it was Chase Whitley. When Tanaka got hurt, Shane Greene got his chance. I expect the Yankees to do the same now. Joe Girardi already confirmed Whitley will remain in the rotation for the time being, and Bryan Mitchell is another option down in Triple-A. Chris Capuano (quad) is pitching in Extended Spring Training games and is expected to be back in mid-May, so Whitley and Mitchell only have to hold down the fort until then. Nova (elbow) is a little further away and not due back until June. Whitley and Mitchell are Plan A. Capuano is Plan B. Nova is Plan C. Hopefully they don’t need a Plan D. The Yankees might bring in a depth arm — like Capuano last year — but otherwise I wouldn’t get my hopes expecting a trade for a noteworthy starter anytime soon.

3. Now, that said, of course the Yankees will keep an eye on the trade market for a starter. They do that literally 365 days a year. Someone might become available who could help and I’m sure they’d pull the trigger if it makes sense. Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto are the big names, but the Yankees figure to face some stiff competition for those guys (Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals) and I’m not sure they have the prospect power to make it work anyway. They might have to scour the trade market for second tier (Kyle Lohse? Matt Garza?) or even third tier (Aaron Harang? Dan Haren?) rotation options. A repeat of the McCarthy trade would be ideal — buy low on someone, make some tweaks, get a few weeks of high-end performance. I’m not sure doing that again is realistic, at least not to extent McCarthy worked out, and I’m not even sure who would be a candidate for such a move. Yovani Gallardo? Point is, if the Yankees do make a trade for pitching, I don’t think it’ll be a big one.

(Severino on Twitter)
(Severino on Twitter)

4. I do not think the Yankees should turn to Luis Severino to replace Tanaka. Not right now. Tanaka’s injury shouldn’t change Severino’s timetable at all. His development path isn’t any different today than it was 24 hours ago. Severino has made three Double-A starts this year and he’s been excellent (2.40 ERA and 2.01 FIP), but he’s yet to top 88 pitches in an outing and I’m not sure he’s capable of going through a big lineup multiple times at this point. The Yankees have moved Severino up the ladder pretty aggressively the last two years and I’m sure he’ll be up with Triple-A Scranton sooner rather than later. Maybe he’ll be a big league option later in the season, say July or August. Right now is not the time though. Whitley and Mitchell are perfectly fine fill-in starters until Capuano and eventually Nova return. Severino’s development is not something to screw around with in the wake of this unfortunate yet not entirely unpredictable Tanaka injury.

5. With Tanaka out, the Yankees really need Sabathia to step up and be more of a factor every fifth day. Nathan Eovaldi still has some things in his game to develop and I don’t think it’s fair to ask him to take an immediate step forward to pick up the slack. Sabathia has to be the guy. He’s the grizzled vet, the guy making big bucks, the one who knows how to be a horse and lead a staff. It has now been more than two full years since Sabathia was even an average MLB starter, so expecting him to be that sort of pitcher is probably unrealistic. He can still spare the bullpen every fifth day though and that will be a big help. Six innings every time out, occasionally seven, that sort of thing. The Yankees need Sabathia to be an innings eater to ease the load on the rest of the staff, because the bullpen has worked a lot already this year and they only figure to work more now that Tanaka is injured. Sabathia’s gotta step up.