Archive for Masahiro Tanaka
The Yankees wasted no time jumping into the offseason this year. Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-season press conference on Monday afternoon, the day after the team closed out its regular season. Usually they wait two or three days. Not this year though.
There was no major news announced during Monday’s televised press conference — no coaching staff changes or surprise injuries, etc. — though Girardi did talk at length about all sorts of stuff. Especially Alex Rodriguez. People love talking about A-Rod. Here’s a recap of Girardi’s state of the team address.
- “We’ve gotta see where he’s at. That’s the thing we have to do,” said the skipper when asked what he expects from Alex next year. “We have to see where he’s physically at. If he can play the field, how many days will he DH, play the field … I don’t think any of us know about him until we get him in games in Spring Training.”
- “I thought our guys handled it pretty well (when A-Rod returned in 2013),” added Girardi while acknowledging the first few days of Spring Training will be hectic. “Will there be a number of new guys in there? I’m sure … We’ll do everything we can to make sure it’s not a distraction, but until we get into it we don’t really know. My personal opinion is it won’t be.”
- “I have a good relationship with Alex. Our team enjoys Alex (in the clubhouse),” said Girardi. “I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah, but we’ll help him get through that.” (Girardi also joked that fans have been hating on A-Rod for years and he’s used to it by now.)
- Girardi said the Yankees “absolutely” expect Rodriguez to be on the team next year. “He hasn’t played in a year. That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year … Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely.”
- Girardi also confirmed they have not discussed having A-Rod work out at first base. “We expect him to be our third baseman,” he said. They’ve stayed in touch via text message over the summer.
The Yankees are dealing with a number of injuries as the season winds down, mostly on the position player side. Here are a few injury updates worth passing along, courtesy of Brendan Kuty, Dan Martin, and Chad Jennings.
- Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) said he felt nothing more than “normal soreness” yesterday after making his return to the rotation on Sunday. He played catch as part of his usual between-starts routine and is scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches on Saturday. “Just the fact that I was able to throw yesterday and the fact I’m feeling good today (is encouraging),” said Tanaka yesterday. “Having the start coming up on Saturday, if I come out from that strong, then obviously that’s a positive. From where I am right now, I should be able to have a good offseason of training (and) I should be good to go for next season.”
- Mark Teixeira (wrist) received his third cortisone shot of the season — it was administered in a different part of his wrist, which is why the doctors allowed it — and hopes to return to the lineup as soon as today. “This last week of the season, we’ll do whatever I can to stay out there and play every game. You never want to end the season hurt. You want to finish the season, so if I play the last five or six games, it’s worth it,” he said.
- CC Sabathia (knee) played catch yesterday for the first time since having surgery in July. He plans to continue his throwing program and get back on a mound by Thanksgiving before shutting it down for the offseason and going into his usual winter routine. “I’ve been throwing a football a little bit. It feels good to come out here and not hide,” he joked.
- Ivan Nova (elbow) is on a throwing program as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. “Nova’s rehab has went extremely well. He has had zero setbacks and has progressed very, very well,” said Joe Girardi.
- There were no updates on Jacoby Ellsbury (hamstring) and Carlos Beltran (elbow) yesterday. Both remain day-to-day and are questionable to return before the end of the season.
The regular season ends six days from now, which means the voting for the various league awards will soon end as well. The voting ends after the regular season but before the postseason — what happens in October has no bearing on anything. These are regular season awards, as it should be.
The Yankees are an extreme long shot to make the postseason and teams that don’t make the playoffs tend not to have major awards winners. That’s not always the case — Alex Rodriguez was the 2003 AL MVP on the last place Rangers, for example — just most of the time. Don’t get mad at me. That’s the way the voters vote. The Yankees do still have some candidates for each of the major awards this season, however. Let’s run them down.
Most Valuable Player
There is an excellent chance the Yankees will not have a player finish in the top ten of the AL MVP voting this year for the first time since 1996, when Mariano Rivera finished in 12th place. The lack of a truly elite player, a Robinson Cano or prime-age A-Rod or Derek Jeter, combined with their second straight postseason-less year all but eliminates anyone on the team from serious MVP consideration. The BBWAA has shown time and time again they prefer to vote for players on contending teams.
Now, that said, the MVP ballot is ten players deep and those last two or three slots are like the Twilight Zone. A lot of weird stuff happens there. Raul Ibanez received a tenth place MVP vote in 2012, remember. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been the team’s two best players all year and I’m guessing they’ll combine for at least one down-ballot vote this year. Same with Dellin Betances and maybe David Robertson. The Yankees don’t have any serious MVP candidates this season but I feel comfortable saying someone on the roster will appear on a ballot.
Had he not gotten hurt, Masahiro Tanaka would have been an excellent Cy Young candidate alongside Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber (and Chris Sale). The injury takes him right out of the running for the award, unfortunately. The Cy Young ballot is one five players deep and it would surprise me if Tanaka even managed to sneak on and grab one fifth place vote at this point. He simply missed too much time and there are too many good pitchers in the AL. Maybe Betances will grab a fifth place vote like Robertson did in 2011. Maybe. He is the club’s only real shot at being included in the Cy Young conversation this season.
Rookie of the Year
Believe it or not, the Yankees have never had two players receive Rookie of the Year votes in the same season. That is all but certain to change this year thanks to Tanaka and Betances. There are a lot of good rookies in the AL this year but Jose Abreu has lapped the field — I think he should win unanimously, this is a no-brainer in my opinion — so neither Tanaka nor Betances will win. I do think both are safe bets to garner multiple second and third place votes though. (The ballot is only three players deep.)
Shane Greene has had a nice year but I would be very surprised if he received any votes. There are too many other good rookies in the league (Collin McHugh, Matt Shoemaker, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Yordano Ventura, etc.) for him to get serious consideration. That doesn’t take away from what he’s done this year. This just isn’t a good year to be a good but not great rookie in the so-called Junior Circuit.
Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award has morphed into the “manager whose team most exceeded expectations” award, so Joe Girardi won’t win. I’m guessing the award will go to either Ned Yost of the Royals or Lloyd McClendon of the Mariners, depending on which non-Athletics team wins a wildcard spot.
The Manager of the Year ballot is only three names deep and it’ll be tough for Girardi to get even a third place vote this year given his competition. I’m guessing at least one BBWAA member will give him a vote based on the team’s ability to linger in the wildcard race until the final week of the season though. After all, nine of 15 AL managers received at least one Manager of the Year vote last season.
Comeback Player of the Year
This one will be interesting. If Jeter put together nothing more than a decent season, say hitting .280 with a .340 OBP and no power, I think he would have won the Comeback Player of the Year award easily. Mariano Rivera won last year and deservingly so, but, even if he had been merely good instead of excellent, I think he would have won anyway for sentimental reasons.
Jeter’s brutal August and pre-current homestand September really dragged down his season numbers (.256/.304/.313) and it will be hard for voters to look the other way. Melky Cabrera and Albert Pujols stand out as two deserving Comeback Player of the Year candidates, so there is no lack of competition. Maybe Jeter will win on the strength of sentimental votes, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at all.
A sabermetric component was added to the Gold Glove voting a few years ago, but it only counts as 25% of the vote. The other 75% is still based on the league’s managers and coaches. Whether they admit it or not, offense still has some impact on the voting, though it has gotten better in recent years.
Right off the bat, we can completely eliminate the entire infield. I mean, maybe Jeter will get a sentimental vote, but I can’t see it at this point. Gardner is a good left field Gold Glove candidate — they used to hand out three general outfield Gold Gloves, but they are position specific now — but Alex Gordon has this one in the bag. He’s outstanding in left and his offense won’t hurt his case either. Yoenis Cespedes might also get more votes than Gardner because of his throwing arm.
Ellsbury has been stellar in center field all season though the numbers hate him for whatever reason: -6 DRS, +1.1 UZR, and +0 Total Zone. I don’t get it. That doesn’t match up with the eye test at all. The various defensive stats always seem to hate Yankees center fielders. Maybe because Gardner takes plays away from them. Anyway, Ellsbury has some stiff Gold Glove competition in Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Jones, Leonys Martin, and Desmond Jennings. I think the chances of Ellsbury winning the Gold Glove are better than the chances of any Yankee winning any other award, but I would bet on the field with this many qualified candidates.
Yeah, no. You actually have to hit to win a Silver Slugger and not many Yankees did that this year. Gardner and Ellsbury have been the team’s two best hitters and they aren’t beating out Gordon or Trout, respectively. Nevermind the other candidates around the league. As far as the Yankees are concerned this year, the most exciting part of the awards voting will be seeing where Tanaka and Betances finish behind Abreu for the Rookie of the Year award. Jeter’s possible Comeback Player of the Year and Ellsbury’s possible Gold Glove are the only other items of note.
Even though they’re a long shot to make the postseason, yesterday afternoon’s win over the Blue Jays was one of the most important games of the season for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka returned to the rotation after missing more than three months with a partially torn elbow ligament, an injury that usual requires Tommy John surgery. But, because his tear was small (supposedly less than 10%), doctors recommended rehab.
Tanaka threw a handful of bullpen sessions and pitched in three simulated games while rehabbing, but nothing can simulate real game action. It’s one thing to feel good while throwing without much adrenaline against a bunch of teenage minor leaguers in Tampa. It’s another to feel good while facing actual big leaguers looking to do damage in front of a packed stadium with 50,000 fans in attendance.
“I was able to go pretty strong today, so I’m relieved. I feel that I was able to do all of the things that I wanted to do,” said Tanaka to Vince Mercogliano following yesterday’s start. “Obviously (the elbow felt) way better today (compared to the last start before going on the DL). I don’t remember exactly when, but gradually as the game went on, I guess I forgot about it.”
To my untrained eye, Tanaka looked like, well, he looked like Masahiro Tanaka. His fastball velocity was down a bit but I expected that after the long layoff. He didn’t have a whole lot of time to build arm strength. Tanaka not only did not shy away from his breaking pitches — the pitches that supposedly put the most stress on the elbow — he actually shook off Brian McCann to get to his slider and splitter on several occasions. He threw them in situations he would normally throw them. Here’s a quick breakdown of his pitch selection, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
I wouldn’t obsess over Tanaka’s pitch selection from yesterday’s start since it was just one start. A short 70-pitch start at that. What he lacked in sliders he made up for in curveballs — “My curveballs were pretty sharp today, so that’s why I was throwing that a lot … I wanted to go out there and check all of my pitches,” Tanaka said to Mercogliano — and his four-seamer and splitter usage was in line with the rest of the season. It would have been a red flag if Tanaka had thrown, say, 80% fastballs and just few splitters or sliders, something that may have indicated he was nursing the elbow. That isn’t the case though. If he was trying to protect the elbow in some way, it doesn’t show in his pitch selection.
Tanaka’s biggest issue on the afternoon was his location. This guy was damn near pinpoint with his command earlier in the season, but yesterday his ability to locate was nowhere to be found, especially in the early inning. It did get a little better as the game wore on, though it never got back to what he showed earlier in the season. Tanaka was missing with fastballs by the full width of the plate at times:
He missed by a significant amount with several other pitches as well, both side-to-side and up-and-down. It wasn’t every pitch — he hit the glove and dotted the corners a bunch of times as well — but much more often than we saw in any of his pre-injury starts. Elbow problems usually result in poor location — a drop in velocity tends to indicate a shoulder problem — but I think this was simply rust. Tanaka mentioned he didn’t feel all the way back to normal following his last simulated game. The location is something to watch in his next start, sure, but I’m not concerned yet.
Most importantly, Tanaka looked like a healthy pitcher yesterday. He did not appear to be tentative — “He just went after it, the way you’re used to seeing him do,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild to Brendan Kuty — and he didn’t labor in any way. Tanaka wasn’t taking a lot of time between pitches or anything like that, which pitchers will commonly do if they’re uncomfortable or not 100% physically. He looked like Masahiro Tanaka with bad control, and I think that represents the best case scenario for yesterday given the circumstances. The closer he looks to normal, the better.
Tanaka’s situation is a new experience for everyone. Well, at least to fans. The Yankees claim to have had pitchers in the organization successfully rehab a partial tear like this. We’ve never seen anything like this though. We’re used to seeing a tear — even a partial one — result in Tommy John surgery almost immediately. Everything about Tanaka is unique, from his background to the way he joined the team to his extreme competitiveness, and this injury is no different. Too many pitchers have gone down with Tommy John surgery in 2014, but based on everything we saw yesterday, it looks like Tanaka just might be the pitcher who beats it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As scheduled, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw in the bullpen this morning for the first time since dealing with fatigue in his arm late last week. He told reporters he felt fine following the 34-pitch session and reported no fatigue or soreness in his arm. Tanaka also reiterated that he still wants to pitch in a game this season to test out his elbow.
The Yankees have not yet announced the next step — I’m guessing they’ll wait a day or two to see how Tanaka feels before finalizing any plans — but reports indicate he could face hitters in a simulated game next. Although there only 22 games left in the season after today, there is still enough time for Tanaka to pitch in two simulated games and make two MLB starts with an extra day or two of rest mixed in at some point. The most important thing is that he feels good today. It seems this recent setback was nothing more than a little dead arm phase.