Masahiro Tanaka has partially torn UCL, rehab recommended
Masahiro Tanaka has been diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, and the Yankees are hopeful that the right-hander will be able to rehab the injury and avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Tanaka has been seen by three doctors, none of whom have recommended that Tanaka should have surgery at this time. If Tanaka’s rehab program is successful, he could be on a Major League mound in six weeks.
“Hopefully no more than six weeks. Time will tell,” Cashman said. “It’s a disappointing situation and one that none of us wanted to be talking about or experiencing. Unfortunately the facts are the facts. We found out now and we know what we’re dealing with.”
Cashman said that the tear to the pitcher’s UCL is being described as “small,” and that Tanaka has been scheduled to have a platelet-rich plasma injection administered next week in New York.
Should the rehab attempt be unsuccessful, Tanaka would likely require Tommy John surgery. The normal expected recovery time of that procedure is 12 to 18 months.
“Obviously the protocols put in play are recommendations with the hope that it’s a solution,” Cashman said. “If he’s a failed rehab, certainly it does not rule out that Tommy John would be the recommendation.”
Tanaka was seen in Seattle by Yankees team physician Christopher Ahmad, as well as noted orthopedist Dr. David Altchek and Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who examined Tanaka in Los Angeles before he signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees. ElAttrache used an MRI taken in January to confirm that the tear was not a pre-existing injury.
He experienced his worst outing as a big leaguer on Tuesday, surrendering five earned runs and 10 hits – both season highs – over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field. After beginning the year 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA, Tanaka was 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA in his last four outings.
Tanaka traveled to New York on Wednesday for an MRI after complaining of soreness. The Yankees placed Tanaka on the 15-day disabled list later that day with what was termed inflammation at the time, pending analysis of the MRI results.
He is the fourth member of the Yankees’ Opening Day rotation to be placed on the disabled list, joining Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. Cashman said that Tanaka’s injury would not change his stance of being an aggressive buyer leading up to the July 31 non-waivers Trade Deadline.
“We’ve been aggressive because now we’ve got four starters that we were planning to have in the rotation are out,” Cashman said. “Because of that, we have been aggressive and we will continue to be aggressive unless I’m told otherwise. We are in the middle of a division fight and we want to stay in the fight.”
Tanaka was off to a sensational start in his rookie season, posting a 12-4 record and a 2.51 ERA in his first 18 starts and earning selection as an American League All-Star. Tanaka has been replaced on the AL’s roster by Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara, but Tanaka is still invited to attend the July 15 All-Star Game festivities at Target Field.
“I’m certainly disappointed for our player. I’m disappointed for our organization,” Cashman said. “He’s an important piece. We’ve had a lot of important pieces that we’ve seen miss action and he’s an important piece as well. We have to continue to figure a way to plug the hole and also be hopeful and optimistic for Masahiro.”