There are certain uncertainties when it comes to the status of Masahiro Tanaka, and the Yankees admit that they can’t seem to stop the bleeding.
On Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, the 28-year-old “ace” was hammered once again — this time at hands of the Boston Red Sox — as Tanaka allowed five runs on three homers in five innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss. His ERA now sits at an unsettling 6.55, and in his last five starts, he’s allowed 27 earned runs and 11 homers — numbers that were not Tanaka-esque in the distant past.
But whether he’s struggling with pitching mechanics, or even experiencing stress and pain with his partially torn elbow, New York has no definitive answers to their questions. Even with a language barrier between Tanaka and the organization, there doesn’t appear to be anything lost in translation — it’s just a ball of confusion, and both sides are sitting on their hands.
So, how should the Yankees approach this issue? Perhaps it’s time to bench him.
Well, at least for his next scheduled start against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
While it’s early June, and yes, there’s still a fair (but slim) chance Tanaka’s light switch is flipped back on in the coming weeks, little harm can come from giving Tanaka a week off. Of course, it’s not a long-term solution, but almost every company in every profession offers and encourages its employees to take mental days, and it’s not ridiculous to assume that Tanaka’s struggles have taken a toll on him both mentally and physically.
If this was the selected course of action, the Yankees would need to find a spot starter for this weekend. So, who would be the candidate? Maybe long reliever Chad Green, who tossed 3.1 hitless and scoreless innings of relief on Tuesday night, striking out five Red Sox batters. The 26-year-old righty’s ERA dropped down to 1.62, and in 16.2 innings, he’s recorded 20 strikeouts. Oh, and Green’s no stranger to starting games, as he started in eight games for New York last season.
Another name on the Yankees’ radar could be Bryan Mitchell, who also has starting experience. But the 26-year-old was recently optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and further development may be needed.
Now, if the decision was up to the fans, prospect Chance Adams would be on the next shuttle en route to the Bronx. Granted, he’s been impressive. In 11 combined starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A, Adams is 7-2 with a 1.55 ERA, and has struck out 66 in 64 innings. At first glance, the 22-year-old’s numbers support a big league promotion, but the Yankees likely want him to garner a couple more outings in the minors before he’s tested at the highest level. Adams has the tools, but it’s very unlikely that he’ll be taking the hill in pinstripes this early.
Surprisingly enough, the Yankees have only had five pitchers start games this season, but maybe it’s best to change that number to six. Although there is no correlation between Tanaka’s failures and his days of rest, a simple timeout for him would be a healthy option. As of right now, there’s no reason to believe Tanaka will opt out of his monster contract after this season, so in order to be proactive, the team should give their high-priced arm some breathing room, and treat him like a normal human being who desperately needs a break.