Update: Luis Torrens to miss 2015 due to shoulder surgery

(MLBpipeline.com)
(MLBpipeline.com)

Tuesday: Torrens was diagnosed with a torn right labrum and will have surgery tomorrow, the Yankees announced. He will miss the entire 2015 season. Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York will perform the surgery. Bummer.

Monday: Luis Torrens‘ shoulder is acting up again. George King reported late last week that the young backstop was heading for tests on his right shoulder, and today assistant GM Billy Eppler told Chad Jennings the team is still gathering information and will know more in the next 24 hours. Earlier today reports were floating around that Torrens needs surgery and will miss the season, but the Yankees aren’t ready to commit to that yet.

Torrens, 18, missed two months last season with a right shoulder strain. He returned from the injury in mid-June and hit .270/.327/.405 (115 wRC+) with two homers in 48 games for Short Season Staten Island as one of the youngest players in the NY-Penn League, so if the shoulder was still bothering him, it didn’t show in his performance at the plate.

In 109 games across two minor league seasons, Torrens has thrown out 50 of 122 attempted base-stealers (41%), which is excellent. Especially considering he did not become a full-time catcher until the Yankees signed him out of Venezuela for $1.3M during the 2012-13 international signing period. Hopefully the injury does not compromise his arm behind the plate, because it is a weapon.

I ranked Torrens as New York’s sixth best prospect two weeks ago because he’s taken to the catcher position extremely well and shows offensive promise. Losing an entire season at age 18 (he turns 19 in May) or even just a chunk of it would be pretty serious though. He’s at a crucial stage in his development. Yeah, Torrens is still very young and will have time to recover, but this is crummy news. No other way to put it.

Tanaka arrives in Tampa, long-tosses for 34 minutes

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Pitchers and catchers aren’t scheduled to report for Spring Training until Friday, but several players are already in Tampa working out at the Yankees’ minor league complex. One of those players is Masahiro Tanaka, who arrived in town earlier this week and worked out at the complex for the first time yesterday.

According to the Associated Press, Tanaka played catch for 34 minutes yesterday, making throws as far as 200 feet. He wrapped up his throwing session with 16 throws from flat ground using his normal delivery. Tanaka, as you know, missed about three months with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow last year. He had no issues with the elbow during offseason workouts and apparently everything went fine yesterday.

“So far everything is good,” said pitching Larry Rothschild to the Associated Press earlier this week when asked about Tanaka’s offseason work. “That doesn’t mean it will be going forward, but we’re going to do everything we can. We’ll put schedules together and things like that to try to keep him healthy.”

Tanaka did not talk to reporters after throwing yesterday — “He looked like the same guy, smiling all the time. When I saw his throwing program, he looked good,” said Ivan Nova, who was also at the complex — but is scheduled to talk to the media on Friday. Needless to say, his elbow is going to be a focal point this spring. Tanaka might be the biggest x-factor for the team’s success in 2015 and every day he goes without an issue is a good day.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Sabathia, Nova, Bailey, Heathcott, Barbato, Hensley

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Here are some injury updates with pitchers and catchers only ten days away from reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training 2015. The updates come courtesy of Brad Lefton, Dan Martin, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) adjusted his usual offseason program and has not been throwing with as much intensity as he had in the past. “Right from the beginning of camp last year, all the pitchers were throwing in the bullpen, but they were just easing into it, so there’s really no reason for me to push myself to throw full throttle before I even get there this time,” he said.
  • CC Sabathia (knee) is working out and throwing regularly at Yankee Stadium. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about how his arm works or how his knee works. Not anymore,” said Brian Cashman. Sabathia is expected to be a healthy player come the start of Spring Training.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing on flat ground and recently said his elbow feels great. He should start throwing off a mound very soon if he hasn’t already. Nova is currently on track to rejoin the team in June after having surgery late last April.
  • Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is expected to be a healthy and active pitcher in Spring Training. He missed all of last season following shoulder capsule surgery. “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler.
  • Slade Heathcott (knee) is also expected to be fully healthy for Spring Training. He had knee surgery last offseason and another one in June. “His progressions are moving forward really positively. The last checkup we had, he’s able to do full baseball activities, it’s just (a question of) how regular and how long of a duration,” said Eppler.
  • Johnny Barbato (elbow) is healthy and will start the season on time after missing the second half of 2014 with an elbow strain. “He was cleared and good to go,” said Eppler while noting Barbato healed up in time to pitch in Instructional League for the Padres last fall. The Yankees acquired Barbato in the Shawn Kelley trade.
  • And finally, Ty Hensley (face) has already resumed throwing bullpen sessions after he was viciously attacked during the holidays, according to his Twitter feed. Hensley’s jaw had to be wired shut due to the attack so he’ll likely lose some weight. He might have to rebuild some strength before the Yankees turn him loose this summer.

Kyodo: “So far so good” for Tanaka during offseason workouts

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

Pitchers and catchers are three weeks and one day away from reporting to Spring Training (!), which means the Masahiro Tanaka Elbow Watch will soon be in full swing. The Yankees lost their ace for three months last season due to a small tear in his UCL, though doctors recommended rest and rehab rather than Tommy John surgery.

Given the history of the rehab approach, it feels like it’s only a matter of time until Tanaka’s elbow gives out completely. It could be in Spring Training, in June, or in 2020. It has not happened this offseason, however. Tanaka has been working out as usual all winter and he told Kyodo everything is going well. “So far so good — including that (the elbow),” he said.

Tanaka is back home in Japan and he’s been working out with former Rakuten Golden Eagles teammates at the club’s training facility. Kyodo says Tanaka has been doing the usual — running sprints, fielding drills, etc. — in addition to his offseason throwing program, which includes breaking balls. This isn’t high intensity, game action type of throwing, that stuff usually doesn’t happen until Spring Training, but he is throwing nonetheless.

Tanaka’s health is the biggest x-factor or the 2015 Yankees. He’s a difference-maker when healthy — easily the best pitcher in the AL East and one of the top four or five in the entire AL — and staying on the mound would improve the team’s outlook greatly. We’re all going to be holding our breath every start (hell, every pitch) though. That’s just the reality of the situation.

News & Notes: Lopez, Sabathia, Sterling, Waldman, Franklin

(Wall Street Journal)
(Wall Street Journal)

Got a few smaller miscellaneous updates of various importance to pass along. Away we go …

Diamondbacks sign Yoan Lopez

According to multiple reports, the Diamondbacks have signed free agent Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez. His $8.25M bonus is a record under the new international spending rules. Arizona will have to pay a 100% tax on the bonus. Jesse Sanchez says Lopez turned down more money to sign with the D-Backs because he feels it’ll be easiest to crack their rotation. I guess that’s a compliment?

The Yankees reportedly had “strong interest” in Lopez along with several other teams. Meanwhile, the baseball world continues to wait for infielder Yoan Moncada to be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control so he can sign. That needs to happen before June 15th for the Yankees to have a shot at signing him, and by all accounts Moncada is a potential star at age 19. Moncada is definitely the greater of the two Yoans.

Sabathia feels good, will begin throwing bullpens soon

For the third straight year, CC Sabathia has spent part of the offseason rehabbing. Two years ago it was the bone spur that had to be removed from his elbow. A year ago it was the Grade II hamstring strain he suffered late in September. This year it was the clean-out procedure on his balky right knee.

Sabathia started playing catch in September and, after deciding not to throw off a mound before Thanksgiving, he plans to start throwing bullpen sessions soon. “I’ve been good. I’ve been playing catch. I’ve been throwing. I’ll probably start throwing bullpens by the end of the month … I feel good, I don’t have any pain, no nothing. My arm feels good,” said Sabathia to Mitch Abramson over the weekend.

There’s no real way to know what Sabathia will give the Yankees next season. It could be the knee injury was the root cause of his problems from 2013-14, and this procedure will get him back to being an effective pitcher every fifth day. Or it could just be that he’s a 34-year-old with a ton of innings in his arm and he won’t be much of a help from here on out. Sabathia is going to be one of the most important players to watch in Spring Training.

Sterling and Waldman officially coming back in 2015

This isn’t much of a surprise: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are officially returning as radio voices of the Yankees this coming season, according to Neil Best. WFAN operations manager Mark Chernoff confirmed the duo will return for their 11th season together. The Yankees don’t have hiring or firing power over the radio announcers, but they do have input.

Sterling hasn’t missed a game in 26 years, and, back in September, he said he is “never going to retire. I don’t understand why people would.” I seem to be in the minority that doesn’t mind Sterling and Waldman, though then again I don’t listen to more than a handful of games on the radio each year. Sterling is an icon at this point. I can’t imagine a Yankees radio broadcast without him.

Franklin set to take over as “roving evaluator”

Over the weekend, Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton announced their coaching staffs for the upcoming season, and a report said longtime Thunder manager Tony Franklin will be taking over manager of the team’s new rookie ball affiliate, the Pulaski Yankees. That isn’t the case though. Franklin told Nick Peruffo he is moving into a “roving evaluator” role.

“I’m extremely happy. It’s given me some renewed energy,” said the 64-year-old Franklin to Peruffo. “(New player development head Gary Denbo) asked me to do something for him. It was an honor for me that he asked … I’m very happy he thought enough of me to do that.”

According to Peruffo, Franklin is going to travel between the team’s minor league affiliates — with an emphasis on the lower level affiliates — and help the organization’s players, managers, and coaches. His official title has not been finalized but he’s basically going to be a roving baseball guru. Franklin had been Trenton’s manager since 2007. Now he’ll have an opportunity to impact more people. Neat.

Cashman on Tanaka: “He is a healthy player so there’s nothing to report”

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
I love this photo so much. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

While talking with reporters late last week, Brian Cashman confirmed there is nothing new to report on the status of Masahiro Tanaka and his partially torn elbow ligament. “He is a healthy player so there’s nothing to report on him other than you keep your fingers crossed that problem doesn’t rear its ugly head again,’’ said the GM to George King.

Keeping your fingers crossed that Tanaka’s elbow holds up next year is not exactly an ideal strategy, but there’s really not much more the Yankees can do at this point. The rehab treatment was complete and the doctors cleared him to pitch, then he made it through two late-season starts healthy, which was encouraging. Adam Wainwright and Ervin Santana pitched with small tears in their UCL for years.

Tanaka’s health might the biggest x-factor for the 2015 Yankees. If he stays on the mound, he’s an impact pitcher who greatly improves the team’s chances to contend. If he gets hurt, especially early in the season, it’s a huge loss because the drop-off from Tanaka to whoever replaces him in the rotation is substantial. I like Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos, but c’mon, they’re not Tanaka.

The Yankees came into the offseason needing at least one starter and now they need multiple starters after using Shane Greene to get Didi Gregorius. They have to protect themselves against not only Tanaka’s elbow, but also CC Sabathia‘s knee and Michael Pineda‘s shoulder. The good news is that there is still quite a bit of pitching available in free agency. All shapes and sizes too. Aces, mid-rotation guys, reclamation projects, you name it.

Prado begins baseball workouts following appendectomy, taking grounders all over infield

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tentative starting third baseman Martin Prado has resumed baseball workouts after having an emergency appendectomy in September, he told Brendan Kuty at a charity event on Wednesday. Prado has been working out since October 20th — he had the season-ending appendectomy on September 16th — and he has been taking ground balls all over the infield in preparation for 2015.

“I’ve always been doing that. It’s not something new,” said Prado when asked about taking ground balls at all different positions in the offseason. “I just put myself in a spot where, whatever you need from me, I’ll be there. I can’t lock in with one spot.”

Prado, 31, hit .316/.336/.541 (146 wRC+) with seven homers in 37 games with the Yankees this past season after hitting .270/.317/.370 (89 wRC+) with five homers in 106 games with the Diamondbacks. He played mostly second base with New York but also saw time at third and in both outfield corners. Prado has played everywhere in his career but he’s best at second and third these days.

Prado’s versatility gives the Yankees a lot of flexibility and not just in games — he allows them to pursue either a second or third baseman this offseason. They can focus on getting the best deal knowing Prado can play the other position. I like him most at second and hope the Yankees can find a real — meaning not replacement level (or worse!) — third baseman this winter. Either way, it’s good Prado’s back to working out following the appendectomy.