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Masahiro Tanaka throws 10 fastballs on flat ground, hopes to return to Yankees this season

Aug 13, 2014, 8:43 PM EDT

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Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed last month with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and that injury pretty much always leads to Tommy John reconstructive surgery, but the right-hander is still holding out hope that rest and rehab will do the trick.

According to beat writer Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, the new Yankees ace threw 10 fastballs on flat ground Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore without experiencing any sort of arm discomfort. “It’s feeling really good,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter after the workout. “Really, I didn’t feel anything special compared to just regular tossing. I thought everything went well.”

Tanaka is aiming to return to the major league rotation at some point in mid-to-late September.

And while that seems unlikely, the in-contention Yankees aren’t willing to rule it out quite yet.

Tanaka owns a fantastic 2.51 ERA (153 ERA+) and 135/19 K/BB ratio through his first 129 1/3 big league frames. He signed a record seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees this past winter.

  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Sure, two September starts vs. 2015. Let’s see how far we can push this thing.

    • theRed - Aug 14, 2014 at 4:31 AM

      Tanaka isn’t Wolverine. He is going to get Tommy John and that’s that. By time the diagnosis came in, he would already be done for 2015. So they are just holding out on him pitching off what’s left of his ligaments for this playoff run, and bring him back in 2016. How many pitchers have ever blew out their arms in July and came back the year after?

      Ask John Lackey if the Red Sox were going to allow him to miss two seasons when they knew he had arm damage. They let him throw until they were out of it, and he went under the knife. They aren’t hurting Tanaka; I’m pretty sure he wants to win, and surgery last month still means he’s gone for 2015, so might as well salvage what’s left of his arm now.

      It really does suck. I’m a Red Sox fan, and it does pain me that a great pitcher comes into the league, dominates, and is so quickly bounced out by injury. But, the years will turn, and he will be in the news again in the future.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Aug 14, 2014 at 7:50 AM

        “I’m pretty sure he wants to win”

        Always bud, always… Guy’s too damn emotional on the mound too but that is where he got his strive for winning.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        Adamantium-armed pitchers would be an awesome market inefficiency.

  2. proudlycanadian - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    I wish him good luck and hope that he does not need an operation.

  3. SocraticGadfly - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    Worst result? He babies his arm through a late-September start that turns out to be meaningless, then finishes blowing it out next year in spring training, misses all of 2015 and half of 2016.

  4. Eutaw's Finest - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    IF the Yankees are effectively out of the race by mid-September I should hope they don’t force the issue and rush him back.

    • voteforno6 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      They shouldn’t rush him back at all. In a situation like this, the only consideration should be Tanaka’s health.

    • pisano - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      By mid Sept? get real, they were out of it last week.

      • Eutaw's Finest - Aug 14, 2014 at 7:36 AM

        I know I should be more optimistic as an O’s fan, but we’ve seen bigger collapses in September! I don’t expect it, but nothing surprises me in baseball.

        Except that time Randy Johnson offed that bird mid-pitch. That’s the only thing that surprised me in baseball.

  5. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    Just don’t rush back and end up costing yourself all of 2015. I get the Yanks are still technically in contention, (They Orioles currently have the biggest division lead in all of baseball) and it would be nice for them to have him back, but one or two starts this year may not really be worth it. The Yanks pitching staff is performing really well right now so don’t kill yourself. I’d like to be able to watch this guy pitch next year, even if it’s for a division rival.

  6. jolink653 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    Shelve him for the year. We’re not making the playoffs and we don’t deserve to. The worst possible thing you can do is have him come back early and tear the ligament worse, possibly costing him all of next season. Just shut him down, let him have the offseason to rest and heal and start him fresh next season

  7. caeser12 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    Unless he can bring in runs with risp don’t bother.

    See you next season Kid.

    Go NY.

    #ASeason2Forget

  8. 18thstreet - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    Too little.
    Too late.

    • Reflex - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:35 PM

      Two thirds through the season. Beltran/McCann/Ellsbury combined bWAR: 4.0. Cano: 5.2 and should be in the MVP conversation as he’ll be over 7 bWAR by season’s end while playing a premium position. And the power is returning, the past two months he’s been at near career norms.

      People can bash the contract all they wish, but the Yanks paid more in terms of dollars and years for three guys who are being dramatically outperformed by the guy they let walk. Given the ages of all involved, its likely Cano continues to outperform his replacements for the duration of their contracts.

      • dcarroll73 - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:47 PM

        There is no way that Cano is still performing in the last several years of that over-long contract he got. The Yanks had no problem with the average annual value he was looking for, and they might have even gone for 8 years (still too long.) A ten-year contract for a 2B his age is just crazy. If you want to bash the Yanks, pick something else based on reality. McCann has had to learn almost two complete pitching staffs with the rash of injuries they’ve had. He has been solid with that, and his batting will improve as the rest of his job settles to a more normal pace. Ellsbury has been fine. Beltran is Beltran. I still give the Yanks 2 for 3 on these signings, and I’d rather have these than Robbie for 10 years.

      • Reflex - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        It does not matter if he performs at this level in the last several years. Right now he’s outperforming his contract at his position and that is likely to remain the case for the next several years. Furthermore, $24 mil/year in 2024 will not be a large contract unless there is a major change in the direction of baseball salaries over the next decade, it will be decidedly middle of the road at the current rate of salary inflation.

        The fact that you’d rather have the guys you got rather than the guy who’s actually producing says a lot. Ellsbury did not get paid what he got paid to be on a pace for 3.5 bWAR. Beltran is a horrible deal. As for McCann, learning a new pitching staff has nothing to do with the fact that his bat has vanished. Even worse, that was *already* his career trend before joining the Yanks. There is zero reason to think that will magically change.

        The Yanks chose to spend big on decline phase players at positions less critical than 2B, and spent more on them than the proven star they already had. Their loss. The reasons they gave were garbage, and while I would not call Cano a ‘steal’ for the M’s, he turned out to be exactly what they needed. The fact that you gave the Yanks 2/3 demonstrates how poor your judgment is, all three deals were terrible, cost the Yanks more money and more years of commitment. The Cano deal, should it propel the M’s to a couple playoff berths, was well worth it for them.

        People who think the Cano and Pujols (and original A-Rod) deals were terrible really do not understand the economics of the game. Something these teams all had in common was that they were in the midst of negotiations for tv rights worth many multiples of the big signing and needed a veteran presence to seal the deal. Furthermore as I stated, salary inflation makes none of those deals the albatrosses that fans suppose they are.

        At any rate, enjoy the next seven years of sub-Cano production for $46 million more than Cano signed for. You can feel smug that the M’s overpaid even when the Yanks get desperate enough to eat the cost of those contracts and pay yet more big money to cover those positions with something approaching at least mediocrity.

        Disclaimer: I’m not a Yanks hater. I’m not a M’s fan. I just find fans who look at big contracts and go “Oh that is such a bad deal” to be amusing in their lack of comprehension of just how much money baseball makes and how much more these players are worth to the teams beyond what they pay them.

      • Reflex - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:11 AM

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-cost-of-a-win-in-the-2014-off-season/

        Just to be clear, this season a point of fWAR is worth ~$6 mil. Cano already has 4.7 fWAR and is on pace for 6.2 fWAR. That means if the season ended today, he would have returned $28.2 mil in value to the team, relative to the other players in the league. He is on pace to return $37.2 mil in value this season, assuming his trend continues (he’s actually heating up but we’ll stay conservative here).

        It only takes a few seasons like that to make his final years of the contract essentially ‘free’, and thats before you factor in that wins are getting more expensive season over season (contract inflation). And keep in mind, the value here is based purely on his performance, this is before you get into the value he returns from a marketing perspective.

        So no, the M’s did not make a mistake. Cano was well worth his deal, and likely will be for the duration of the deal, potentially even in the final seasons if his drop off is not faster than projected (or something catastrophic, such as the collapse of the regional sports network money happens).

      • dan1111 - Aug 14, 2014 at 7:56 AM

        @Reflex, there are several problems in using that analysis to judge the value of contracts.

        It focuses only on free agents, the most expensive players. If you used that calculation, a 100 win team would have a $318,000,000 payroll, but clearly that is never the cases.

        It is only a measure of money paid, not value teams actually got out of the players. It is quite possible that teams are systematically overpaying for free agents, thus the average contract value does not work out to the true value they are providing.

        It ignores the fact that the value of a player is context-dependent. A good player is worth more to a team on the verge of a playoff spot than to a terrible or great team.

        Overall, it is hard to evaluate true player value. But I think it says a lot that the Yankees, who needed his skills and have a much better track record at evaluating players than the current M’s front office, were not willing to pay nearly that much for him. The fact that this contract is a lot higher than anyone expected, or other teams were willing to pay, is telling.

      • Reflex - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        I actually agree with a lot of what you say there, however I’d point out that the chart is supposed to be about free agents specifically, what their free market value is worth. Of course teams don’t have $318 mil payrolls but that is the point, they skip as much of the cost as possible with controlled players. That does not change the value of free agents.

        As for the second part, I do not feel that your gauging of his value based on what the Yankees did to be very valid. I don’t feel they have generally had a pretty good track record with free agents, in fact they specifically stated that their poor record with long term deals was why they did not want to do one with Cano. As for other teams interest, the issue there has to do with more than what his worth is, but also what other teams in or near contention needed (notably, most of the major teams were already set at second which is why Cano had to back down from the $300 mil demands) and what they could each afford. Its not as simple as saying nobody else would pay that, its not like the Red Sox were in the bidding considering they have Pedroia, and the Dodgers also did not have a major need there.

        And finally given the results this year it is apparent that the M’s were on the verge of contention, something many people have pointed out for the past season and a half or so, and that one big bat at a key position made a huge difference for them. No their offense is still not obsolete, but they have the second best run differential in MLB right now which strongly implies this was the right move. Perhaps not coincidentally, the vast majority of that run differential can be attributed to Cano, based on his totals.

        One other note: You imply that value to a team is entirely tied up in on field performance, but I have already pointed out that it really does not. It has to do with whether or not the player brings back more money than they cost, and in Cano’s case he clearly will. That picture is only partly due to performance (wins = higher fan draw per game, higher ratings on tv, etc), but also due to everything from merchandising to how it impacts their ability to sell the team to their RSN for the deal they are in the process of negotiating.

      • Reflex - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        ‘obsolete’ was supposed to be ‘elite’, the M’s offense is not elite, but it only has to be better than opponents hitters are against M’s pitchers on average, and it has been substantially better than that which is why the high run differential.

  9. pisano - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Don’t be in a hurry to get back, that team is on a fast track to fourth place, and with a luck the Red Sox won’t overtake them and put them in the cellar. One of the worst Yankee teams I’ve seen in quite a while, I thought last year’s team was horrible, but this team is right up there with them. Turn out the lights, the party’s over for 2014.

  10. drewzducks - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    I’m not sure if this was lost in translation, but someone may want to tell him that the earth isn’t flat.

    • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:38 AM

      Lost in “translation”? What are you talking about?

  11. 1998yanks - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    Season is basically over. No need to risk anything for a couple of games. Fresh start for 2015 and hope for the best.

    • pete2112 - Aug 14, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      Totally agree. It’s over this season and it’s not like this team would do anything in the playoffs if by the oddest of chances they were somehow able to get in. Let him continue to rehab it slowly and not waste a couple of starts on meaningless games in September.
      I realize the front office has to make it appear they’re going for a playoff run, but I wish they would start thinking about the future more. This team is not setup for winning 90 games a season anymore and it’s time to start building it up again. Cashman made some great moves at the trade deadline and brought up some guys who’ve shown promise. Let’s see what these guys can do down the stretch and evaluate what they can do next season.

  12. jolink653 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    So why is it that so many teams avoid 10-year deals like the plague? You think the Angels don’t already regret the Pujols deal despite the year he’s having? I know for damn sure that the Yankees have to deal with the albatross that is A-Rod’s deal. It’s well known that you don’t give a 10-year deal to someone on the wrong side of 30. I loved Cano, but I didn’t want him on a 10-year deal. He doesn’t make or break this team; the lineup has just had a rough year and I expect them to rebound next season.

    Check back towards the end of Cano’s contract and then let me know how Seattle feels about it. They’re not a serious contender with him and with Hernandez being in Cy Young form, so how much value does he actually add? Anyone can come up with some sort of crazily calculated stat to inflate value

    • pete2112 - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      I have to agree. As much as the Yankees needed Cano’s bat this season, ten years was just too long and it’s about time they start learning from their mistakes. The ARod situation is going to haunt the Yankees for quite some time and unfortunately they still have to address this issue at the conclusion of this season, which will mean most likely releasing him and eating all the money left on his contract.

    • Reflex - Aug 14, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      If Cano puts up enough production in the first half of his contract to outweigh the second half, then yes he was worth it. Furthermore, salary inflation blunts a huge amount of the impact of his contract over time, $24 mil today is not $24 mil in ten years.

      Also, the M’s are in playoff contention and have been most of the season. Their run differential is the second best in all of MLB. That strongly implies they are legit. More than 2/3 of that run differential can be pinned directly on Cano based on his runs and RBI’s. Clearly he is *exactly* what they needed this season. Whether he is what they need in five or ten years is certainly an open question, but if he makes them a contender a few times early, he will have been worth it, especially given the factors mentioned above about what that salary actually means.

  13. ptbakery - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Isn’t it great to see the Yankees have such bad luck and be nothing more than a middle of the road team with no title hopes after spending their way to success for so many years now? All the injuries, FA busts, lack of help from the bushes, competing with teams like KC, Seattle, Cleveland and Toronto for wild card position, watching Boston hoist the trophy several times in recent years. The magic is no more and it’s the 1980s all over again! Suck it Yanks!

    • pete2112 - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      @ptbakery: No team can go on forever like that. I wouldn’t say we’re looking at another 80’s type of team though. Those were some really bad teams and I don’t see them getting down to that level, at least for the next couple years. I would like to think if they didn’t have so many injuries that this team would at least be within striking distance of the AL east, but it didn’t work out like that and a lot of FA guys didn’t live up to their contracts, so it is what it is. There’s no doubt this team is in a rebuilding transition, even if ownership says otherwise. If Boston can go from last place to WS champion and then back to last place again, things can change quickly for New York too.

    • Reflex - Aug 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      I really don’t think the Yanks are all that far off from competing again, honestly. Tanaka was a must, and they need to pick up one of the good free agent starters that will hit this offseason. They may need to realize Beltran was a sunk cost, and they probably need to find a decent catcher. But really this team is a starting pitcher, second baseman, SS and RF away from being competitive. For most teams that would be too many holes, but they have more money coming off the books this offseason (Jeter being the obvious one) and contrary to their claims they can spend if necessary.

      They are not a lost cause. And I don’t see an extended drought. But they need to do better than they did last offseason.

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