Masahiro Tanaka: “I think I have a chance” to help Yanks in September
The 10 fastballs that Masahiro Tanaka fired across the flat ground of Camden Yards’ outfield grass on Wednesday afternoon may not seem like much, but they represented another important step as the right-hander works to return to the mound this season.
Tanaka ramped up his velocity from the stretch position to make the tosses, his first at that effort level since sustaining a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament in a July 8 start against the Indians in Cleveland.
“It’s feeling really good,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Really, I didn’t feel anything special compared to just regular tossing. I thought everything went well.”
Tanaka still needs to advance to throwing bullpens and batting practice, then facing hitters in games, but said that feels no pain in his elbow. Tanaka believes that it is possible he will make it back to the big leagues in September.
“I think I have a chance, if everything progresses the way I want it to and we want it to,” Tanaka said.
Each session without discomfort is encouraging to manager Joe Girardi, who said that Tanaka will have a scheduled day off from throwing on Thursday and then will get back to work in Florida on Friday.
“I think once you start seeing him in games, whether it’s a rehab game or a regular game, you’ll have a better idea really of where he’s at,” Girardi said.
Girardi said that he is keeping the light on for Tanaka to tack a few more starts onto what had been an extremely promising rookie campaign.
“That’s our hope,” Girardi said. “We wouldn’t be going through this if we didn’t expect him to pitch for us. Our hope is he’ll pitch in September.”
The Yankees announced an edit to their pitching rotation on Wednesday, slotting Hiroki Kuroda to face the Rays on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
Kuroda had initially been skipped altogether after Tuesday’s rainout against the Orioles, with Chris Capuano listed to make Sunday’s start.
Girardi explained that this will still give extra rest to Kuroda, who last pitched on Aug. 10 against the Indians in New York.
“We’re trying to stay proactive so he doesn’t fatigue down the stretch here,” Girardi said.
Kuroda is 7-8 with a 4.03 ERA in 24 starts this season and tired down the stretch last year, when he was 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA in his final eight starts. He said that an extra day here or there could make a difference for him.
“It’s really hard to rest during the course of the season,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “When I’m in the season, it’s hard to feel rested. I’m glad that the team or the manager was considerate about giving me a rest.”
Kuroda, 39, said that he has made one small concession to last season’s August and September tailspin; he has decreased the number of pitches in his side sessions between starts by about 10 pitches, hoping to save those bullets for games.
Girardi said that the Yankees’ decision to give Kuroda some extra time is more of a preventative measure than based upon signs of wearing down.
“I think it’s really based on what happened last year,” Girardi said. “I know his last start wasn’t great, but the starts before that have been really good. Like I said, we’re trying to stay proactive, we’ve talked about it. I’ve been asked about it 1,000 times. So we’re trying to be proactive.”
The Yankees believe they will be able to activate catcher Brian McCann from the seven-day concussion disabled list when he is eligible on Saturday, Girardi said.
McCann sustained what the team called a mild concussion when he was hit by a foul tip in an Aug. 6 game against the Indians, and was placed on the disabled list the next day. McCann will join the team for their series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
“He’ll be there Friday,” Girardi said. “He’ll go through BP and so far I think he feels good. He’ll be back when we can take him back.”
Girardi said that McCann resumed baseball activities on Tuesday and hit again on Wednesday in New York, and has already passed the Major League Baseball-mandated ImPACT test to play in games.