Update: Carlos Beltran leaves Yankees to attend to family matter

10:10pm: Awful news. Beltran announced on Facebook that he and his wife lost their son. A newspaper report out of Puerto Rico says his wife had a miscarriage. “Everything happens according to God’s perfect timing, and my wife and I accept it that way. Thank you for all the messages of love,” said Beltran. Our condolences go out to the Beltran family.

12:30pm: Carlos Beltran has left the Yankees to attend to a family matter, Joe Girardi announced following last night’s game. There is no timetable for his return but it will be at least a few days. The Yankees are out of the race and Beltran has started just one of the last eight games because the bone spur in his elbow has been acting up, so his absence isn’t going to hurt the team or be especially noticeable. Hopefully everything’s okay with his family.

Game 151: Retaliation?

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

Things got a little heated between the Yankees and Rays last night after Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch up high. Tampa has plunked several Yankees hitters in their last few meetings. Following the game, Joe Girardi and some players said they weren’t necessarily upset with getting hit, but where they were getting hit, specifically up high around the hands and head. If you’re going to pitch inside, do it down in the zone. That was their basic message.

The Yankees are clearly upset with the Rays and frustrated by the way their season has played out in general, so if there is going to be any sort of retaliation, it’ll happen tonight, in their final head-to-head game of the season. It’s worth noting that Joe West, tonight’s scheduled home plate umpire, was just suspended one game by MLB for an incident over the weekend, meaning there will be a replacement umpire on the staff. Hopefully nothing happens and these two teams just play baseball. Throwing at people is weak. Just beat them. Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. DH Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. LF Chris Young
  6. CF Brett Gardner
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Brandon McCarthy

More heat, more humidity, and more rain in the St. Petersburg area today. The Tropicana Field dome came in handy this series. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Yankees’ current 2015 rotation options full of uncertainty

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

On Sunday, Masahiro Tanaka will get back on the mound and pitch in the big league game for the first time since the week before the All-Star break. It will be the biggest step in his rehab from a partially torn elbow ligament, and, really, the best case scenario is seeing that the ligament won’t blow out the instant is it subjected to a game action stress level. It’s either going to blow out or not blow out, but even if it doesn’t, there is no guarantee it will stay intact going forward.

No matter what, Tanaka will head into next season as a big health question mark. The Yankees have to go into the offseason assuming the worst — that the elbow will give out at some point relatively soon — and act accordingly, meaning bringing in plenty of pitching depth. In fact, just about every big league caliber starter in the organization will carry uncertain health into next season if Hiroki Kuroda does not return. To wit:

  • CC Sabathia is coming off knee surgery after there were concerns he may need a career-threatening microfracture procedure.
  • Ivan Nova had Tommy John surgery on April 29th and the best case rehab scenario has him back on a big league mound in late-April 2015.
  • Michael Pineda is healthy right now but missed more than three months this year with a muscle problem in his back/shoulder. That’s on top of the shoulder surgery that cost him 2011-12.
  • David Phelps just missed a month with elbow inflammation after missing more than two months with a pair of forearm strains in the second half last year. He’s yet to show he can handle a full season’s workload.

And then there’s Tanaka’s elbow on top of all of that. We already know Nova will not be ready come Opening Day and the recent rash of pitchers who have had complications coming back from Tommy John surgery — with the last 14 months Daniel Hudson, Cory Luebke, and Jonny Venters all needed a second Tommy John procedure before completing the rehab from their first surgery — is a reminder that Tommy John is not fullproof. Several doctors, most notably Dr. James Andrews, have said the 12-month rehab may be too aggressive, so the Yankees might take is slow with Nova.

No one really knows what to expect out of Sabathia going forward, so at this point the safest bets to be healthy at the start of next season are Pineda and Phelps, and that is kinda scary because neither of them is all that durable. As I’ve said before, I think the Yankees need to focus on adding depth and multiple pieces to strengthen the roster for top to bottom this offseason. Adding one star caliber pitcher like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester will certainly help, but in the end those guys only fill one of five rotation spots while the other four remain questionable.

Priority number one this winter will clearly be improving the offense. It has to be. The patchwork rotation has done a fine job filling in this year but many of the rotation injuries are going to carry over to next year. In a perfect world I’d like to see Pineda and Phelps penciled in as the fifth and sixth starter again, respectively, but at the moment they are the team’s two healthiest starters under contract (or team control, really) for next year. Bringing in a starter to replace Kuroda this winter is the bare minimum. The Yankees have a lot of injury risks in the rotation and the offseason is the time to add some protection.

One way or another, Yanks will learn something about Tanaka’s elbow on Sunday

(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.

Yankees lose 6-1 to Rays after benches clear

It looks like we’re in for an ugly end to the season, doesn’t it? The Yankees are out of the postseason race and another weak game by the offense led to some frustration boiling over in the late innings on Tuesday. The Rays won the game 6-1. The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and seven of their last ten.

(Getty)
(Getty)

A Run!
For the seventh time in the last six games, the Yankees scored a run. Chris Young and Ichiro Suzuki teamed up for this historic event with two outs in the second inning. Young doubled down the left field line and Ichiro drove him in with a single through the right side of the infield. Young’s at-bat was very impressive. He fell behind in the count 0-2, took three straight balls to work it full, fouled off two more pitches, then ripped the double. Somehow Chris Young is the team’s best hitter.

The Yankees had some chances to score additional runs but quickly made sure not to capitalize. Brendan Ryan (walk) and Jacoby Ellsbury (single) reached base to start the third inning before Derek Jeter (bunt), Brett Gardner (pop-up), and Brian McCann (strikeout) made outs. Francisco Cervelli and Ryan (both singles) reached base to open the fifth, then Ellsbury (line out), Jeter (fly out), and Gardner (strikeout) ended the inning. The Yankees have had two runners on base with no outs three times in the first two games of the series and have scored zero runs.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Big Mike For Four Innings
Things sorta spiraled out of control for Michael Pineda in the fifth inning on Tuesday. He cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two singles (both by James Loney, of course) and another runner to reach on the ol’ strikeout/wild pitch combination. His pitch count sat at 52 starting the fifth inning, but Pineda would only record four more outs.

The Rays scored their first run thanks to some of the Yankees’ trademark bad infield defense, specifically errors by Ryan and Pineda. Ryan short-hopped a throw to first, allowing Kevin Kiermaier to reach with one out, starting the rally. Ryan Hanigan followed that with a walk, then Ben Zobrist slapped a ground ball to first base. McCann scooped it up and made a less than perfect flip to Pineda, who bobbled the ball and eventually dropped it. Zobrist was safe and Kiermaier chugged around to score from second.

An inning later, three consecutive Tampa hitters reached base without only one ball being hit out of the infield. Nick Franklin sliced a one-out double to left field and Matt Joyce worked a walk to put two men on base. A wild pitch during Joyce’s at-bat moved Franklin to third. Joe Girardi came out to chat with Pineda, left him in the game, then Yunel Escobar laid down a beautiful safety squeeze to score Franklin. Cervelli didn’t even bother to throw to first after looking home. The Rays took the 2-1 lead on the bunt.

Josh Outman came in to clean up the mess — Kiermaier bunted into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play because he slipped coming out of the box and was slow to get off the ground — so Pineda’s final line was two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks in 5.1 innings. He struck out five. After allowing three (really two) base-runners in the first four innings, five of nine Rays reached base at one point spanning the fifth and sixth innings.

Benches Clear
Things got dumb in the eighth inning. In the top half, home plate ump Rob Drake warmed both benches after Steve Geltz accidentally plunked Jeter. I didn’t get that, it was clearly unintentional (0-2 count!). Girardi was ejected after coming out of the dugout to yell at Geltz. Then, in the bottom half, David Phelps immediately threw at Kiermaier and was tossed. Both benches cleared though nothing really happened. Lots of standing around and yelling. Usual baseball scruff stuff. Phelps didn’t even hit Kiermaier, the pitch buzzed him. The Yankees can’t even do beanball wars right these days. There’s a lot of frustration in the dugout and it’s starting to show.

Leftovers
The law firm of Rogers, Hill & Phelps combined to allow four runs in the seventh inning to put this one out of reach. Esmil Rogers was charged with three runs after allowing two hits and a walk. He got one out. Rich Hill failed to retire either batter he faced and was charged with one run. Ellsbury made an unbelievable diving catch in center to take extra bases away from Wil Myers, though two runners scored on the sac fly anyway. Double sac fly! The trail runner was Loney too. Good grief. Apparently tagging up on a sac fly isn’t reviewable either. Who made up these rules?

Jeter’s slump reached 0-for-26 and lowered his batting line to .249/.298/.297 (67 wRC+). He did have the sac bunt and was hit by a pitch though. The Yankees had three base-runners after Ryan singled to put two on with no outs in the fifth — Cervelli’s one-out single in the seventh, Jeter getting hit by Geltz, and Chase Headley‘s leadoff single in the ninth. They scattered seven hits, two walks, and a hit batsman.

Hanigan’s one-out walk in the fifth inning snapped a string of 119 consecutive batters without a walk for Pineda. That dates back to August 20th, his second start off the disabled list. That’s not any sort of record — Phil Hughes went 178 (!) batters between walks earlier this year — but it is a really impressive streak.

Girardi was ejected in the top of the eighth after both benches were warned, then bench coach/acting manager Tony Pena was ejected after Phelps threw at Kiermaier. Third base coach Robbie Thomson took over as acting manager. Is it bad when you have three times as many managers as runs in a game? That seems bad.

Box Score, WPA Graphs & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some other game stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Yankees will be either six games (Royals lose) or seven games (Royals win) back of the second wildcard spot with a dozen games remaining. FanGraphs puts New York’s postseason odds at 0.4%. Their elimination number is down to seven and will drop to six if the Royals win. The Orioles clinched the AL East title on Tuesday, by the way.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will wrap up their season series on Wednesday night. (Tampa has already clinched it at 11-7.) Brandon McCarthy and Alex Cobb will square off in a battle of aces (?).

Game 150: Big Mike in Tampa

BIG MIKE IS HERE

Michael Pineda is very familiar with the Tampa area. Big Mike spent the better part of the 2012-13 seasons at the team’s Spring Training complex while rehabbing from his shoulder surgery, so pitching in Tropicana Field — which is really across the bridge in St. Petersburg, not Tampa — should feel like a homecoming. Will his teammates actually score runs for him? The magic 8 ball says … “Don’t count on it.” So there you have it. Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. LF Brett Gardner
  4. 1B Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. DH Chris Young
  7. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  8. C Frankie Cervelli
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a typical Florida day down in St. Pete, meaning hot, humid, and rainy. Good thing the Trop has a roof, I guess. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on My9. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira is out with soreness in his surgically repaired wrist and there is no timetable for his return at this point … obviously Frankie Cervelli (migraines) is feeling better and has been cleared to play … in case you missed it earlier, Masahiro Tanaka is tentatively scheduled to return to the rotation on Sunday.

Tanaka tentatively scheduled to return to rotation on Sunday

(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.