The Yankees are still hoping that Masahiro Tanaka can return, but are still playing it safe with their words. Yesterday was big day for Tanaka, who picked up a ball for the first time since being shutdown on July 9 with a partial UCL tear in his pitching elbow. Tanaka tossed the ball around lightly in the outfield yesterday, throwing 25 pitches at 60 feet. By all accounts it was success, but just the first step in a very long process. Tanaka said afterwards he felt “good” in English, but elaborated on his status thru his translator “I am relieved,” Tanaka said.“I think I got the next step, so I’m very relieved about that. I think the plan is to increase the number of throws as well as try to get the distance longer.”
Manager Joe Girardi shed some light on the situation, but had a more realistic outlook on how things really might be via Brendan Kuty.“It’s way too early to see,” Girardi said. “It’s really like catch, he’ll do it again tomorrow, we’ll try to increase intensity and the distances we go. Obviously, it’s positive he didn’t feel anything today, but like I said, it’s pretty light catch.” A light pitch and catch session is still a long ways from a throwing at full strength and facing live batters. The Yankees know that, and Tanaka hopefully knows that also. Best case scenario is that Tanaka could pitch again sometime in September, but if the Yankees happen to be out of the playoff race, there is really no chance the Yankees risk putting him back out there.
If you take a step back and look how the team has handled the Michael Pineda situation this year, and most recently David Phelps, you can get the sense that maybe the Yankees will do right thing this time around and shut Tanaka down for the rest of the season. That might be tough to swallow for some fans, regardless of how Tanaka feels down the road or if a potential playoff spot is on the line. The ultimate goal should really be to avoid having to send Tanaka under the knife at all costs. Again it’s still way to early for anyone to know what will happen, but let’s hope whatever the Yankees decide to do, it’s best for Tanaka in the long run.