Of course there is a concern about Masahiro Tanaka and how long it will take to get the right-hander back in the New York Yankees pitching rotation. The bad news became official in the fifth inning up in the press box when GM Brian Cashman addressed the media.
Slight tendinitis in the right wrist have put the Yankees $175 million investment on the 15-day disabled list. So the immediate concern was this latest setback to Tanaka would ultimately mean that Tommy John Surgery is not far behind, and that this is has been caused by more strain to the right elbow that shut him down last season.
Cashman would only say that it will be a month before he takes the mound again. That is the Yankees hope though the immediate concern is that there is more damage to the elbow. An MRI earlier in the day, according the Yankees medical report, detected the tendinitis, a mild strain in the forearm and no further injury to the elbow.
Tanaka said through an interpreter by the Yankees clubhouse, “I feel I will come back strong.” And the Yankees hope that is the case, though one longtime American League scout was quick to say that this latest injury has all indications leading to more issues with the elbow and it would not be a surprise if Tanaka does not pitch again this season.
The Yankees certainly hope that is not the situation. And if it is, even with relatively good starting pitching the past week, the Manager Joe Girardi said, “People have to step up.” Chase Whitley the right-hander made his season debut Tuesday night and he stepped up allowing 1-run in five innings in the Yankees 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was to be one start for Whitley who was called up to give the starters extra rest with the demanding April schedule. Now Whitley will stay in the rotation and be one of the pitchers to step up.
“Right now he’s on our rotation,” said Girardi. And without Tanaka, who was scheduled to make his next start Wednesday afternoon, the Yankees have sole possession of first place in the AL east and improved to 4-1 on the six-game homestand. They are also playing good baseball, 10-2 since April 17th,
Tanaka made four starts, thus far, and has compiled a 3-3 mark with an ERA of 3.22 Whitley joins CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Adam Warren in the rotation. By mid June the Yankees expect Ivan Nova to return and fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. And Chris Capuano out with a right quad strain is expected back by the first or second week of May,
Cashman explained, “Every year you have to deal with adversity. That’s part of a baseball season.” The Yankees will now deal with that and hope Whitley, who was 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre, can continue to one of the arms in the rotation to step it up.
Said Whitley after his first win: “I am not trying to look ahead to anything else, Just pitch when and where they tell me to pitch.” And with no specific timetable as to when or if Tanaka will return, Whitley will now have a set spot in the rotation and fill the void.
In the meantime, Girardi said this latest setback to Tanaka is different from last year. In a way it was because it happened later in the season and that was the elbow that caused much of the concern. The Yankees then were still fighting for a playoff position and now, with April coming to an end, they sit in first place.
But this is April, and as we all know there is plenty more baseball to be played even if the Yankees have won 10 of their last 12 games.
THE GAME: The bullpen once again did their job allowing an earned run in 4.01 innings and since April 22 they are 3-0 with four saves, a 0.77 ERA. With Dellin Betences and Andrew Miller not available for the save, Girardi went to Chris Martin who tossed a scoreless ninth inning and notched his first career save.
Prior to Martin, Esmil Rogers threw 2.2 innings of scoreless ball and a hit. A strikeout and ground ball out accounted for two outs and got the Yankees out of a potential jam in the eighth inning.
“It was a little nerve racking the first pitch but I settled down there,” said Martin, the 28-year old right-hander. “ I feel like everyone is helping this team win. This is a team effort. Hope I can be pitching well and all of us contribute….”
Brian McCann continued to pace the Yankees with two doubles and drove in three runs. “I feel good, been feeling good all season long,” said McCann. “Hits are starting to fall and I’m finding the barrel.”
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