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.

Update: Tanaka headed to 15-day DL with “small” forearm strain

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

8:29pm: An MRI showed Tanaka has tendinitis in his wrist and a “small” forearm strain, Brian Cashman told reporters at Yankee Stadium. There is no change to his UCL. He will be placed on the 15-day DL and will “conservatively” miss about a month according to GM. Considering the elbow issue last year, there’s no such thing as a “small” forearm strain for Tanaka.

Here is Cashman talking about the injury:

8:17pm: According to George King, Masahiro Tanaka is not at Yankee Stadium tonight and it is “believed” he went for tests on his right wrist. The Yankees have not confirmed anything. Marly Rivera says Tanaka did not speak to the Japanese media this afternoon, which he usually does the day before a start.

Tanaka has never had any wrist problems as best I can tell. He missed all that time with the partial ligament tear in his elbow last season, and a few years ago he missed some starts with the Rakuten Golden Eagles due to a shoulder issue, but that’s all. No other injuries from what I can find.

Obviously losing Tanaka for any length of time would be pretty devastating to the Yankees. His last two starts have been pretty awesome, vintage Tanaka, and that guy is impossible to replace. Stay tuned for any updates.

Andrew Bailey inching closer to return, may join Yankees sooner than we think

(NY Post)
(NY Post)

Sunday night’s game with the Mets was a textbook win for these Yankees. They got an early lead and made it stand up thanks to some stellar defense and an excellent bullpen — five relievers combined to throw 4.2 scoreless and hitless innings to preserve the lead. That’s exactly the kind of game the front office had in mind when they put this club together over the winter.

Thanks in part to that 19-inning game, we’ve already seen the Yankees cycle through several extra relievers these last few weeks. Matt Tracy, Kyle Davies, Joel De La Cruz, and Branden Pinder have all spent some time in the bullpen this year. The Yankees have plenty more bullpen options in Triple-A too, most notably Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Webb, and Jose Ramirez.

Further down the ladder is another more veteran bullpen option: rehabbing right-hander Andrew Bailey. He’s coming off major shoulder surgery but did get back on a mound in Spring Training and has been with High-A Tampa since the start of the minor league season. Including Grapefruit League play, the 30-year-old Bailey has thrown 10.2 innings across 12 appearances in 2015, pitching to a 5.06 ERA with 14 strikeouts and five walks overall.

At this point the actual performance is a secondary concern. Who cares that Bailey’s ERA is high in his first ten or so innings after missing nearly two full years to a shoulder injury? The most important thing is that he’s healthy and working his way back from his shoulder injury. Bailey’s usage has started to look like typical reliever usage too — he entered a game in the middle of an inning last week and pitched in back-to-back games over the weekend. Those are good signs that his rehab is going well.

Bailey was taken off the High-A Tampa roster and sent to Extended Spring Training yesterday, which usually means one of two things. Either he’s injured or the Yankees are preparing to move him up to a higher level. There’s no indication Bailey is hurt and it seems like he’s reached the point when a veteran pitcher would move up a level to continue his rehab. The question is which level, and is it possible that level is the big leagues?

The Yankees are planning to call up Chase Whitley to make a spot start tomorrow, so the bullpen is going to get reworked a bit. Someone (Chasen Shreve?) will be sent down to make room for Whitley, then Whitley will presumably go down for another reliever Wednesday. Shreve and Pinder can’t come back since it will not have been ten days since they were optioned. Lindgren took a line drive off his foot yesterday, so he may be sidelined for a few days. That leaves Ramirez and Burawa as 40-man options and Rumbelow and Webb as non-40-man options.

Those four may or may not be better big league options than Bailey at this point. Who really knows? There may be other factors to consider as well. Bailey’s minor league contract could very well have an approaching opt-out date, say May 1st or something like that. (Johan Santana’s first opt-out date with the Blue Jays was April 28th, for example.) The Yankees could call Bailey up soon to keep him from opting out. They have spent more than a year rehabbing him, after all. They probably don’t want him to leave and get zero return for their effort.

Either way, Bailey or no Bailey, the Yankees have a quality big league option and several options waiting in Triple-A if necessary. Bailey was a low cost flier who is making real progress from his shoulder injury, and there’s a chance — albeit a small one — he could join the Yankees sooner rather than later. Whether he can be effective is another matter. Bailey is an option though, and following Whitley’s spot start tomorrow, the club will have to turn to one of their bullpen options to fill out the roster.

Injury Updates: Nova, Pirela, Capuano, Ryan

Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers will play the third game of their four-game series a little later tonight. Until then, here are some injury updates via Marly Rivera, George King, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw two innings of live batting practice yesterday. He threw 20 pitches, sat down for a few minutes, then threw 15 more pitches. Nova is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday, which will be his first game action of any sort since having Tommy John surgery last April. He’s on track to return in June.
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday, which was his first game action since getting hurt. He played third base and stayed in the game after getting plunked. Pirela is scheduled to play seven innings at second base today.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw two innings in an Extended Spring Training game today. It’ll be his first game action since getting hurt in Spring Training. Capuano is looking at a mid-May return at the moment.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) was able to field ground balls and take batting practice yesterday. I believe that is the first time he’s done any sort of baseball activity since getting hurt in Spring Training.

Injury Updates: Gardner, Nova, Capuano, Pirela, Ryan

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

The Yankees and Rays continue their series later tonight, so, until then, there are some updates on various injured Yankees courtesy of Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and the Associated Press:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) was going to stay in last night’s game to hit after pinch-running, if necessary. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” he said. Gardner came through several rounds of batting practice just fine and should return to the lineup today.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in his second live batting practice session yesterday. “I’m getting closer. Feels awesome,” he said. Nova expects to throw batting practice two more times next week before getting back into games. Joe Girardi said they’re shooting for May 1st for Nova’s first minor league rehab start.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) threw live batting practice Thursday and will do so again tomorrow. Girardi said Nova and Capuano are “pretty close” with regards to their timetable, but Capuano is “slightly ahead.”
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through all drills and hit against Capuano on Thursday. He’ll play in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Pirela will join the big league team once healthy.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) “might” go to Tampa next week to begin going through baseball workouts. It depends how he feels in the coming days.

Chris Capuano faces hitters for first time as he works his way back from quad strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Forgotten left-hander Chris Capuano faced hitters for the first time yesterday as he works his way back from a Grade II right quad strain suffered early in Spring Training, reports George King. He threw a round of live batting practice at the team’s complex in Tampa.

Capuano, 36, injured his quad covering first base in his second start of the spring, so he basically has to go through an entire Spring Training before rejoining the Yankees. Fill-in fifth starter Adam Warren is scheduled to start tonight’s game, and it seems like he will make at least four more starts given Capuano’s timetable.

Although Capuano was signed to be the fifth starter, I don’t think he’s guaranteed a rotation spot when he returns if everyone is healthy and Warren is pitching well. Capuano could slide into a relief role and give the Yankees some bullpen stability after they cycled through four pitchers for the final spot in the last week alone.

By no means is Capuano a staff savior or anything, but pitching depth is never a bad thing and he can help the Yankees in some capacity. Perhaps they will speed up his timetable and bring him back as a reliever before he’s fully stretched out, say after three tune-up games or something. We’ll see.