Archive for Injuries

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees announced Masahiro Tanaka will make his (hopefully) triumphant return to the rotation on Sunday after more than two months on the shelf with a partially torn elbow ligament. Unfortunately the team is out of the postseason race, so there won’t be a fun “Tanaka comes back from his injury and leads the Yankees to October” storyline to follow. Bummer. That really would have been something.

Tanaka has spent the last two months rehabbing the ligament tear and the last six weeks actively working his way back with bullpen sessions and simulated games. He threw 65 pitches during his most intense simulated game on Monday and apparently that was enough to convince the Yankees he is ready for game action. Tanaka will be limited to 70-75 pitches on Sunday, plus there’s even enough time left in the season for him to make another start after that.

Now, this entire situation is sorta weird. Four doctors (four!) advised Tanaka to rehab his injury rather than undergo Tommy John surgery, but there’s still a chance he will need to go under the knife. In fact, it’s almost an inevitability. Once the ligament starts to tear, even a tiny little bit like Tanaka’s, it’s usually only a matter of time before it goes. It could blow on Sunday, it could blow in April, it could blow in 2023. Adam Wainwright pitched five years with a partial tear before his elbow gave out. Ervin Santana’s been pitching with one since 2009.

No one has any idea when the elbow will give out and that’s why Tanaka is pitching this weekend. To find out if it will happen immediately. The alternative is what, spend the winter resting and rehabbing and hoping it will improve his chances of delaying surgery some small percentage without guaranteeing anything? If four doctors tell you to rehab your $175M pitcher, then you rehab your $175M pitcher. And if he competes his rehab and is healthy enough to pitch, you let him pitch. Going against doctors’ orders in any way would be the most irresponsible thing ever. Fireable offense, no doubt.

“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a Major League mound. Pitch on the mound,” said Tanaka to Chad Jennings yesterday. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too … Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed).”

Tanaka made it clear he wants to test his elbow and see how it holds up before the season lets out. And you know what? I don’t blame him one bit. Put yourself in his shoes. You know you have this ticking time bomb in your elbow, so would you rather see what happens in a meaningless game or two late in the season or having it linger in the back of your mind all winter? Making it through two starts with the elbow intact doesn’t mean the Yankees will be able to pencil him in for 230 innings next year, but it will allow Tanaka to go home for the winter with some peace of mind and that’s important.

So, one of two things will happen when Tanaka starts this weekend. Either he’ll blow out the elbow and need Tommy John surgery, or he’ll come through it healthy and go into the winter feeling good about things. In either case, the Yankees have to approach the offseason assuming Tanaka will miss a lot of time in 2015. They have to prepare for the worst case scenario in this situation no matter what. But there is value in finding out whether he needs surgery right now. There’s also value in letting your ace have a clear mind all winter. The Yankees aren’t sending Tanaka out there recklessly, the doctors are behind them. This is simply the next step in the process.

Because New York is out of the postseason race, they can afford to let Tanaka pitch on Sunday even though he himself admitted he is still rusty following the long layoff. Losing that game won’t matter. Maybe things would be different if they were closer to the second wildcard spot, but I’m guessing not. Either way, Sunday is an important day for Tanaka as well as the 2015 Yankees. The health of his elbow is paramount to the team’s success going forward and this weekend he’ll test it out in game action for the first time, which is the biggest step in his rehab.

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(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

After more than two months on the shelf, Masahiro Tanaka will return to the rotation this weekend. Joe Girardi announced that his ace right-hander is tentatively scheduled to start this coming Sunday. He will be limited to 70-75 pitches. The Yankees will have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate Tanaka coming off the 60-day DL, but that’s no big deal. You won’t even notice Chaz Roe is gone.

Tanaka threw 65 pitches during a five-inning simulated game on Monday. He did get knocked around a little bit but the most important thing is that he came through it healthy. Tanaka, who played catch today, said he feels good and has no problems with his elbow. The partially torn ligament hasn’t bothered him for a few weeks now. He is rusty, though that is to be expected.

There is enough time left in the season for Tanaka to make two starts with the Yankees, though he told reporters one will be enough to give him peace of mind heading into the offseason. These final two starts are about testing the elbow and finding out whether he needs Tommy John surgery now or at some point in the future. The Yankees are out of the race, so it doesn’t matter if they win or lose his starts because he isn’t sharp.

Four doctors advised Tanaka and the Yankees to rehab the injury rather than go under the knife, which is what they’ve done. All the pitchers who have had complications following Tommy John surgery in the last year or two (Ryan Madson, Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, Daniel Hudson, Cory Luebke, Jarrod Parker, etc.) are a harsh reminder that the procedure isn’t fullproof. So far everything has gone well and hopefully that continues Sunday.

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12:05pm: The Yankees officially announced Prado is done for the year following the appendectomy. He has been placed on the 60-day DL and utility man Jose Pirela was called up. Pirela, 24, hit .305/.351/.441 (117 wRC+) with ten homers and 15 steals with Triple-A Scranton this year. He was due to become a minor league free agent after the season and was a borderline 40-man roster candidate.

11:12am: Martin Prado will likely miss the remainder of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, according to Meredith Marakovits. The season ends in 12 days and most players need several weeks to recover from an appendectomy, though Matt Holliday only missed seven games following the procedure a few years ago. Holliday is the exception, not the rule. The Yankees are out of the race and there’s no sense in rushing Prado back though. Let him heal up and get ready for next year.

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4:50pm: Joe Girardi told reporters it is “very possible” Tanaka will return to the rotation this weekend. They need to see how he feels the next few days before making any final decisions though.

2:30pm: Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game against a bunch of minor leaguers at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa today, as scheduled. He threw 65 pitches across five shutout innings, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out four. Chad Jennings has a recap of the action and says several of the hits were well-struck. Meredith Marakovits says Tanaka topped out at 92 mph.

Following the simulated game, Tanaka told reporters he felt good but is unsure if he is ready to pitch in a big league game. He wants to see how he feels in the coming days and will consult with the club before finalizing a plan going forward. Tanaka reportedly did not seem to be concerned about his performance because it wasn’t real game action. Dan Barbarisi interpreted his comments as “yeah, physically, I can pitch in the Majors next, but I don’t know how sharp I’m going to be,” for what it’s worth.

At this point there is only enough time for Tanaka to make two more appearances this season, assuming normal rest. That means two MLB games, two simulated games, or one simulated game and one MLB start. If he had come through today’s simulated game with zero problems, I think he would have started for the Yankees this coming weekend. But because he wasn’t sharp and sounds a little tentative, I’m guessing he’ll throw another simulated game in the coming days. Then again, the Yankees are out of the race and are only concerned the health of his elbow, not results.

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For the first time since being scratched from Wednesday’s game with soreness in his elbow, Carlos Beltran was able to take swings yesterday, according to Chad Jennings. He took 20 light swings against soft toss pitches. Beltran told David Waldstein he feels a little bit better and will not have the bone spur surgically removed from his elbow until after the season matter what. He is trying to come back and play.

Beltran, 37, is hitting .236/.305/.409 (97 wRC+) with 15 homers this season, though he has put up a .265/.351/.420 (119 wRC+) batting line in the second half. The Yankees are essentially out of postseason contention and there’s no real reason to delay the surgery. Waiting an extra two or three weeks won’t be that big of a deal — it’s two-month rehab and supposedly will not interfere with his offseason routine — but there’s always a chance Beltran could somehow make it worse by continuing to play through the injury.

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7:31pm: Headley visited a neurologist and all tests came back clean. He escaped the beaning with just a cut on his chin. Headley has rejoined the team — the YES cameras showed him in the dugout during tonight’s game — but he is still a few days from returning to the lineup.

11:42am: Tests showed no fractures after Chase Headley was hit in the chin by a Jake McGee fastball in the ninth inning of last night’s game, Joe Girardi announced. He didn’t even need stitches. Scratch that, he did need some stitches. Headley does still need to see a neurologist before being cleared to play. Good news though, that was a really scary moment last night.

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10:28pm: Headley is heading for x-rays and additional tests on his jaw and will not leave with the team when they travel to Baltimore tonight.

10:07pm: Chase Headley left tonight’s game in the ninth inning after taking a Jake McGee fastball to the chin. He was down on the ground for several minutes and there was blood, but he seemed to be responsive. Team doctor Dr. Ahmad even came out to check on him, which you rarely see. Headley eventually walked off the field under his own power. Scary, scary stuff. Stay tuned for any updates.

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(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Not long before last night’s win over the Rays, the Yankees had to scratch Carlos Beltran from the starting lineup because of soreness in his right elbow. He has a bone spur in the elbow, as you know, and he’s been nursing the injury since early-May. It has limited him to mostly DH duty and last night was not the first time lingering soreness forced him to skip a game. As someone who’s dealt with a bone spur, I know they can be far from comfortable.

Both the Yankees and Beltran have said he will have surgery to remove the bone spur immediately after the season, though he has played through it these last few months in an effort to help the team remain in the postseason race. That hasn’t happened though. The Yankees have faded out of the postseason picture — FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at a 1.6% right now — and it will take a historic run to win a wildcard spot at this point. It’s not gonna happen.

Because the Yankees are a long shot to play October baseball, they should get a head start on the offseason and send Beltran for his surgery right now. They’ve said he will need two months of rest before he can resume baseball activities, which won’t interfere with his usual offseason routine, but we’ve seen CC Sabathia (elbow) and Derek Jeter (ankle) have offseason surgery in recent years only to need more time to recover than expected. Beltran is 37 years old, remember. A setback or a slow recovery wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world.

Now, this is not the same situation as Masahiro Tanaka. We already know Beltran is having surgery. It’s going to happen as soon as the season ends. The Yankees and Tanaka are actively trying to avoid his elbow surgery though, a surgery that is much more serious than what Beltran will go through. If Tanaka was definitely going to have his surgery, then yeah, I’d be all for sending him for it right now. That’s not the case though. It is the case with Beltran. We know he’s having the procedure. There’s a different dynamic.

In hindsight, the Yankees should have just sent Beltran for the surgery when he initially got hurt. Word got out that he had the bone spur on May 13th, and he hit a weak .192/.252/.365 (68 wRC+) over the next two months, the time he would have missed during his rehab. The Yankees wouldn’t have missed his bat at all and they would have had a healthy Beltran for the second half. Obviously it doesn’t work exactly like that — who knows how long it would have taken Beltran to get his timing back, etc. — but playing through the injury didn’t exactly help.

Between Brett Gardner (abdomen) and Martin Prado (hamstring), the Yankees are already short two regular position players. Beltran would make it three but that’s a minor issue at this point. Rosters are expanded and their postseason odds are remote. Chris Young and Ichiro Suzuki would get a few extra at-bats and maybe Antoan Richardson would get a start. Who cares. Ending Beltran’s season 19 games early won’t mean much of anything to the 2014 Yankees.

Joe Girardi told reporters last night that the team is considering shutting Beltran down for the season and sending him for the surgery, but they’re going to wait two of three days before making a final decision. That’s fine. Two or three days isn’t a big deal. I’m just happy they’re considering the option and not stubbornly looking to keep him in the lineup and in an effort to feign contention. Shutting Beltran down now won’t change anything with regards to where the team sits in the standings, but getting the two-week head start on the surgery would help put him in the best possible position to help the team in early-2015.

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Masahiro Tanaka will pitch in a minor league game at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa on Monday, Joe Girardi told reporters. He came through yesterday’s 45-pitch simulated game just fine and will throw a bullpen session on Friday as preparation. I assume Tanaka will pitch in an Instructional League game next week, not another simulated game. Girardi hinted that Tanaka could be activated off the disabled list to start for the Yankees next weekend if Monday’s outing goes well.

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(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees continue to fade out of the postseason race, but at least there is some good news on the injury front. Also some bad news, but whatever. Here are a few injury updates, courtesy of Bryan Hoch, Chad Jennings, George King, and Mark Feinsand.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) threw 45 pitches across three simulated innings yesterday, saying afterwards that everything went fine and he feels strong. He will throw a bullpen session in the coming days, and after that the Yankees will decide whether Tanaka will throw another simulated game or pitch in an Instructional League game in Tampa. It’s entirely possible he will rejoin the rotation after that. “I think he wants to feel that he can go home and have a normal offseason and he can be healthy and come back,” said Joe Girardi. “I do believe it’s important to him.”
  • Brett Gardner (abdomen) underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a mild strain. There is no timetable for his return right now and it’s possible his season is over. “We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back,” said Girardi. “He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities … I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
  • Martin Prado (hamstring) is not improving. His mild strain hasn’t gotten any worse — he did play two games over the weekend — but it just isn’t getting any better right now. “There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue,” said Girardi. “It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it — and he did a good job — there’s concern.”
  • David Phelps (elbow) will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and is likely to be activated on Friday, in advance of the team’s doubleheader against the Orioles. He feels great and is ready to go. The Yankees are bringing Phelps back as a reliever.
  • Frankie Cervelli (migraines) is on medication and resumed working out Monday. He should be available soon. “I got treatment and I’m back. Doctors say we have to make sure it doesn’t come back, but I feel good so I think I am going to play soon,” he said.
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