The New York Yankees are starting to have visions of a playoff run once their starting rotation is somewhat whole again. With the return of Michael Pineda to their rotation this week, they could hope for big things once rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka returns.
Unfortunately for them, Tanaka’s return still will not be happening anytime soon. Even with meaningful progress in his rehab this week, he won’t return to save the New York rotation anytime before September. That raises the question of whether the Yankees can even hang around in the standings long enough to make that return matter.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Post writes the following about Tanaka’s progress:
Tanaka made 50 throws at 90 feet on Monday, reporting no problems. He will extend that distance to 120 feet on Tuesday…
…Girardi said the next step after 120 feet will be for Tanaka to throw pitches on flat ground, then eventually move to a mound. There is no date for that, though the Yankees have said they don’t expect him to be ready before September.
Sensational is the word you would use to describe Tanaka’s performance until he went down with discomfort in his throwing elbow. He was 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 mark through 18 starts this season. Not only was he going to be a front-runner for the American League Rookie of the Year award; he might have also been among the top guys for the AL Cy Young award.
The baseball world collectively held its breath when Tanaka went down with an elbow injury. Even with each step of his rehab the Yankees have to wait to make sure he did not aggravate or make his injury worse. If he can return in September, however, it could throw an interesting wrinkle in the playoff picture.