Armed with new mechanics, Masahiro Tanaka looks to be the exception after elbow injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Since the very first day of Spring Training, Alex Rodriguez has dominated the headlines from Yankees’ camp. They’re inescapable. Hopefully that will start to change now that Grapefruit League play has begun, but I’m guessing that’s not the case. C’est la vie.

Despite A-Rod‘s presence, the single most important story in camp this year is the status of Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow. He faced hitters in live batting practice for the first time yesterday and so far everything is going well. Tanaka feels great and the coaching staff is pleased with how he is throwing. Can’t ask for much more at this point. So far, so good.

Tanaka admitted to slightly altering his throwing program over the winter — he threw with less intensity, basically — following last season’s elbow injury, but that’s not the only change he made. Jeff Passan recently managed to tear himself away from A-Rod long enough to learn Tanaka has altered his mechanics in hopes of keeping his elbow healthy. That … seems like a pretty big deal. From Passan:

“I don’t think (my mechanics) were solid (before the injury),” Tanaka told Yahoo Sports through interpreter Shingo Horie recently. “With the right mechanics, the right form, the right balance, you’re able to throw a solid pitch. It’s not about how much power you can put on the throw. It’s more about the mechanics. That’s what I believe.

“I’m never really satisfied. Your body is different every day. You’ve got to talk with your body and make small or, sometimes, big adjustments to get that pitch form right. It’s hard to get to a point where you’re completely satisfied with your mechanics.”

Passan doesn’t give many details about the mechanical adjustments but does say they “mostly (have) to do with ensuring his arm is in sync with the rest of his delivery, preventing excessive stress on the elbow.” It sounds not like some sort of mechanical overhaul, but minor tweaks to be more efficient and maybe incorporate his lower half more.

So will the new mechanics a) keep Tanaka healthy, and b) impact his performance in any way? There’s no possible way I could answer that and I’m guessing Tanaka and the Yankees wouldn’t be able to tell you with any certainty either. They clearly think these adjustments at least have a chance to help him stay healthy without hurting performance. Otherwise the adjustments wouldn’t have been made.

It’s easy to say Tanaka’s injury is the result of throwing so many splitters, and while that may very be true, it’s worth noting pitchers in Japan use the splitter a ton and have a way lower rate of Tommy John surgery than their MLB counterparts. Tanaka’s elbow may have started barking because his mechanics were a bit out of whack, which is what he is aiming to fix. Or maybe he hurt his elbow because sometimes pitchers just break. Who knows? Pitching ain’t natural.

Many pitchers have suffered partially torn UCLs like Tanaka and very few have been able to significantly delay surgery. Even fewer have been able to avoid it all together. Tanaka is trying to become one of those exceptions and stay healthy after getting hurt, and these mechanical changes are part of his efforts to stay on the mound. Everything in camp has gone well so far, and while I’m not sure I’ll ever truly feel confident in that elbow going forward, Tanaka seems to be, and that is important.

Spring Training Game Thread: Baseball Returns!

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After five long months of offseason, Yankees baseball returns this afternoon. The team begins Grapefruit League play today with a quick trip over the causeway to Clearwater to play the Phillies. Yeah, I know it’s only Spring Training, but it’s baseball. And baseball is way better than no baseball in my book.

As always, the regulars in the starting lineup will not play the entire game. This is only the first of 34 spring games, remember. Starter Adam Warren is scheduled for two innings — or 30 pitches, based on previous springs — and the starting position players will get two or three at-bats before heading home.

Today’s reason to watch: Both Luis Severino and Jacob Lindgren are scheduled to pitch. Probably just one inning each, but they are the team’s top pitching prospect overall and top bullpen prospect, respectively. I’m certain we’ll see Lindgren in MLB this summer. Severino … maybe. Also, the new pace of play rules are in effect, so this will be our first look at them.

Here is the lineup that will start this afternoon’s Grapefruit League opener:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Chris Young
  4. 1B Garrett Jones
  5. 2B Jose Pirela
  6. C Austin Romine
  7. DH Kyle Roller
  8. 3B Jonathan Galvez
  9. SS Nick Noonan
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cito Culver, 3B Cole Figueroa, LF Slade Heathcott, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge, and DH Mason Williams will come off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, C Francisco Arcia, and 1B/OF Tyler Austin are also available if needed.

Available Pitchers: RHP Luis Severino, LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Nick Goody, and RHP Diego Moreno are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Kyle Davies, LHP Chasen Shreve, and LHP Tyler Webb are the extra arms.

It’s a perfect day for baseball in Clearwater. Temperatures in the upper-70s and low-80s, not many clouds in the sky, and no threat of rain. And humid as hell. That’s Florida for you.

This afternoon’s game is available on MLB.tv only — well, it’s also on CSN if you’re in the Philadelphia market — and traditionally there have been no MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training, so you should be able to watch today’s game online. I can’t make any promises, they may have changed their policy this year, but hopefully that’s not the case. Yep, no blackouts. Enjoy the game, folks.

Open Thread: March 2nd Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yankees baseball returns to tomorrow. Granted, it is only Grapefruit League play, but baseball is baseball. Tomorrow’s game will be available on MLB.tv but not YES, if you’re wondering. (Here’s the full Spring Training broadcast schedule.) Here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

Here is your open thread for the evening. The new look (hockey) Rangers are playing, and so are the Nets. There’s also some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Spring Training, tomorrow’s upcoming exhibition opener, or anything else right here.

Open Thread: 3/1 Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Only one more day of workouts until actual Spring Training games start. Here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

Here is your open thread for the evening. None of the local hockey or basketball teams are in action and there’s no college hoops either. Slow night. Talk about whatever you want here.

Open Thread: 2/28 Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mother Nature got in the way of Spring Training today. Rain across Florida forced many teams to either cancel or move their workouts indoors, including the Yankees. Here’s what happened down in Tampa:

  • Michael Pineda and Chasen Shreve were among the notables scheduled to throw live batting practice, but the rain canceled it. Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, and Jose Ramirez were among those to throw bullpen sessions inside. [Chad Jennings, Brendan Kuty]
  • Because of the rain, Joe Girardi did not announce his early Grapefruit League rotation as expected. He and pitching coach Larry Rothschild need to sit down and map things out again. Warren is still likely to start Tuesday’s opener though. [Jennings]
  • As expected, Girardi said he will get Stephen Drew some work at shortstop this spring. He still hasn’t decided when Alex Rodriguez will play first base in an actual game. Girardi said he needs to talk to A-Rod to see if he’s ready first. [Kuty]
  • And finally, the Yankees had a special guest motivational speaker in camp today: Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. [Erik Boland]

This is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and Devils are in action right now and the Rangers are playing later tonight. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing tonight too, and there’s a ton of college hoops on as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Open Thread: 2/27 Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Happy Friday, everyone. This is the last Friday without some sort of baseball game — Spring Training, regular season, or postseason — until November. Isn’t that grand? Here is the latest from camp:

  • We have our first Spring Training injury: Brendan Ryan suffered a mid-back strain lifting weights and will miss five days or so, the Yankees announced. He went for an MRI and everything. Ryan missed most of camp and the first few weeks of the regular season last year with back issues.
  • CC Sabathia threw a 41-pitch bullpen session and will wear a brace on his knee going forward. “There is a maintenance program that I am going through. I put the brace on and there is nothing out of the ordinary … I definitely like where I am at. I am not feeling pain and moving forward. I feel great,” he said. [George King]
  • In addition to Sabathia, Andrew Bailey, Esmil Rogers, and Ivan Nova all threw bullpens. Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, and Dellin Betances were among those to throw live batting practice. There was the usual full slate of batting practice, infield practice, and outfield practice for the position players as well. [Chad Jennings]
  • Alex Rodriguez worked out at first base for the first time, though he didn’t do a whole lot. Fielded some grounders, took some throws, and covered the bag a few times. He has to learn positioning more than anything. Alex knows how to field a grounder and catch the ball. [Jennings]
  • It’s not official yet, but Adam Warren is likely to start the team’s Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies on Tuesday. Joe Girardi will announce his early spring rotation tomorrow. [Marly Rivera, Jennings]
  • And finally, today was photo day. You can look through all the team photos right here. They didn’t take them in the restroom this year. Not sure why they did that a few years ago. Weird.

Here is your open thread for the evening. All the local basketball and hockey clubs are in action except the Rangers, and there’s some college hoops on as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so go nuts.

Open Thread: 2/26 Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Another day of Spring Training workouts is in the books. We’re only five days away from the first Grapefruit League game now. Here is the latest from Tampa:

  • The big story of the day was Masahiro Tanaka‘s third bullpen session of the spring. He threw 40 pitches with increased intensity and had no issues. “I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen. As far as hitting the spots, location, it was better than the last one as well,” he said. Larry Rothschild was pleased and Tanaka will throw again in a few days. [George King]
  • Bryan Mitchell and Chase Whitley also threw bullpens while Adam Warren and Andrew Miller were the notables to throw live batting practice. There’s a very large group of pitchers scheduled to throw tomorrow, including CC Sabathia, Andrew Bailey, Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, Dellin Betances, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jacob Lindgren. [Chad Jennings]
  • Today was the first full squad workout and everything went without a hitch. All the position players took batting practice, the infielders took infield practice, the outfielders too outfield practice, etc. That includes Alex Rodriguez, who supposedly had the day’s most impressive batting practice session. [Jennings]
  • Brian Cashman confirmed that yes, A-Rod will be on the Opening Day roster. He also said his relationship with Alex is fine and he’s sick of talking about him. Cashman believes the situation has been addressed and the questions have been answered. [Brendan Kuty, Ryan Hatch, Dan Barbarisi, Andrew Marchand]
  • Remember the minor ankle injury that sidelined Jacoby Ellsbury at the end of last season? He took three weeks off to rest at the start of the offseason and it hasn’t bothered him since. [Mark Feinsand]

This is the nightly open thread. The (hockey) Rangers are playing and there is some college hoops on as well. That’s it. Use this thread to talk about anything anything and everything.