Masahiro Tanaka’s rehab is going so well, he feels comfortable describing his progress without the help of a translator.
“Good,” Tanaka told a group of reporters in English. “Better.”
Tanaka returned to his normal interview protocol for the details of today’s session, but the right-hander is clearly excited about his situation. Tanaka threw 35 pitches in the Yankee Stadium bullpen, a mix of fastballs, curveballs and sliders. He also snapped off five splitters, which is fairly significant considering the torque that Tanaka’s signature pitch requires.
“It went well, but it was actually my first time throwing breaking balls – something other than fastballs – in the bullpen, so I felt it was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
Manager Joe Girardi said that the Yankees have no plans to ask Tanaka for another MRI, checking on the progress of his right ulnar collateral ligament tear. As long as Tanaka continues to feel no discomfort, they will continue his program, which could soon advance to live batting practice, then simulated games and possibly Minor League games. Their hope is to get him on the big league mound in September.
“The fact that he felt good today was encouraging,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
Carlos Beltran was in the original Yankees lineup tonight, but it never made it off of Joe Girardi’s desk. Beltran informed the club that he is having more issues with discomfort in his right elbow, and he has been scheduled to see team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad tonight.
Beltran has been dealing with this issue since May, and swinging the bat will occasionally create a sensation in the elbow. This situation is different because it continued overnight, Girardi said.
“I took him out of the lineup, he’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
Girardi said that it is too early to call this a major setback, and hopes that Beltran can return to the lineup in a day or two. Girardi also said that he doesn’t draw a link between Beltran’s return to outfield duty and the recurrence of the injury.
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Yankees catcher Brian McCann was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Sunday, starting behind the plate for the team’s series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
McCann sustained the concussion when he was hit in the mask by a foul tip in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians in New York. Manager Joe Girardi said that it was nice to have McCann’s bat back in the lineup.
“It makes it deeper, and obviously it’s a guy that has power,” Girardi said. “It’s really good to be able to put him back there because any time someone goes through something like he went through, we’re always concerned. But he feels good and he’s back in there.”
Catcher Austin Romine was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to create room for McCann, who has batted .238 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 103 games this season.
Masahiro Tanaka played catch on Sunday at Tropicana Field and reported no issues, one day after throwing 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound.
“Real encouraged,” Girardi said. “That was the first thing I asked; ‘How does he feel today?’ The fact he went out and played his long toss tells me he feels good. And we’ll continue to go forward.”
Girardi said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen next week, and will be allowed to spin some curveballs in that session. The Yankees are targeting a September return to the big league mound for the 25-year-old rookie.
“He’s had no twinges or anything,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “You stay optimistic until you know otherwise. We’ll just keep progressing the program as it’s set up and just go from there.”
Rothschild compared the intensity of Saturday’s session to the first day of Spring Training, and said that he was watching Tanaka’s facial expressions to see if he was trying to hide any discomfort. Tanaka’s mechanics in the bullpen looked smooth, he said.
“It is what it is. You just take it a step at a time and progress with it,” Rothschild said. “Would I rather have him had three, four or five starts right now? Yeah. These things crop up; as we’ve seen this year in baseball too often. You’re just not going to know until he gets through it all and he’s in games. Even then, you have to keep an eye on it.”
Serving as the designated hitter is not Derek Jeter’s favorite assignment in the lineup, but it’s still preferable to a full day off for the Yankees captain.
Jeter was in the lineup as New York’s DH for a second straight day on Sunday, with Stephen Drew filling in at shortstop. Carlos Beltran played a second game in right field, moving Martin Prado to second base.
“I don’t DH much,” Jeter said. “You go in the cage between at-bats. That’s about it. It’s not something that I do a lot of. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how people do it. I just run out of things to do.”
This marks Jeter’s sixth game of the year as a DH, and the 63rd of his career.
“I’m not thinking too much of it,” Girardi said. “I figure it’s a chance to do it. Turf can be rough on people. We’re going to get into another long stretch, so I chose to do it that way.”
Girardi said that having Beltran as an outfield option will increase the flexibility in assigning DH days, though he still will play Prado often in right field. There were days that Girardi wanted to give Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury DH days but wasn’t able to.
“Now that we’ve got Carlos in the outfield, we could rotate the DH a little bit more,” Girardi said. “I’ll still DH Carlos plenty, but felt it was a chance to give Jeet a week where he could catch up.”
David Robertson has converted 20 straight save opportunities since June 5, the longest active streak in the Majors. He is the fifth pitcher in Yankees history to convert 20 or more in a row, joining Mariano Rivera, John Wetteland, Dave Righetti and Goose Gossage. Rivera owns the franchise record with 36 straight saves converted in 2009.
On this date in 1976, Graig Nettles hit a ninth-inning home run on the first pitch from the Rangers’ Tommy Boggs, giving the Yankees a 2-1 walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium. Doyle Alexander pitched a complete game for the Bombers.
Carlos Beltran said that he was given no better than a 50-50 chance of playing the outfield again this season, but that coin flip has worked out in the Yankees’ favor. The veteran will play right field on Saturday, his first appearance there since May 11.
“I’m happy, of course,” Beltran said. “We have been looking forward for this, trying to put my arm in condition to be back in the outfield. It really took a while … right now, I just feel like it’s time.”
Beltran has a bone spur in his right elbow that will require surgery after the season, but the 37-year-old said that he has been throwing without discomfort.
The Yankees have been playing Martin Prado in right field since his July 31 acquisition from the D-backs, with Beltran limited to designated hitter duties. Beltran’s return to outfield play will increase manager Joe Girardi’s flexibility in putting together lineups.
“You can get more right-handed hitters in there today [against left-hander Drew Smyly],” Girardi said. “You get in long stretches and you can give other guys a DH day. We’ve got some long stretches coming up.”
Though his season stats are not up to expectations, Beltran has seen a jump in his numbers recently, which coincides with the improvement in his elbow. In 26 games since the All-Star break, Beltran posted a split line of .299/.355/.495, with five homers and 17 RBIs.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “At the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
Beltran said that since his elbow issue is not a secret, he would expect the aggressive Rays to test his arm on Saturday.
“I’ve been playing catch and I’ve been throwing to the bases – second base, for the most part,” Beltran said. “I’ve been making throws where I feel like if that happened in the game, I could do that. It feels fine.”
Masahiro Tanaka threw 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound on Saturday morning at Tropicana Field, reporting no discomfort, and the Yankees right-hander is eager to begin snapping off breaking pitches in his next session.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, so I feel good about that,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Tanaka is trying to avoid surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka said that regardless of the Yankees’ position in the standings, he would want to come back and make a handful of September starts to gauge his progress.
“I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season,” Tanaka said.
The Yankees are on board with that idea. Looking ahead to 2015, there is a great deal of uncertainty in their starting rotation, and it would be useful to know if Tanaka can realistically be counted upon.
“I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy, and I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Tanaka will travel with the team after Sunday’s series finale, continuing his rehab in New York. He has been an observer for the Yankees’ recent skid.
“Everybody’s doing their best to try to get a W, obviously,” Tanaka said. “So if I get a chance to come back, I’ll be on the same page with everybody else.”
The morale level has fallen in the Yankees’ dugout during their recent slide, according to hitting coach Kevin Long, who believes that several of the team’s players are pressing for results that aren’t coming.
“We need to get back to where we’re feeling good,” Long said. “That was only five or six days ago. These guys are going through a tough time. We’re going through a tough time. I only know one way to get out of this, and that’s to keep fighting, keep working, keep grinding, and I know the guys in this room will do that.”
New York has managed seven runs during the five-game skid, hitting .173 (28-for-161) overall and .064 (2-for-31) with runners in scoring position. They’ve struck out 46 times against eight walks.
“You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off.”
Long said that the Yankees’ goal is to be scoring five or six runs a game, which obviously they have not come close to achieving.
”Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that,” Long said. “Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber or [Alex Cobb], it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down.
”Not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff [on Aug. 13]. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it…. Some of those other guys we should be able to get to.”
Catcher Brian McCann (concussion) was eligible to be activated from the seven-day disabled list on Saturday, but the Yankees have decided to give him at least one more day to continue workouts.
Manager Joe Girardi said that he thought McCann looked “kind of lethargic” going through catching drills and batting practice on Friday, which was likely related to resting for several days after sustaining the concussion in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians.
Right-hander David Phelps (inflammation in right elbow) is scheduled to resume throwing during the Yankees’ upcoming homestand. Phelps has been on the disabled list since Aug. 4.
Right-hander Andrew Bailey (recovery from right shoulder surgery) has had setbacks while rehabbing in Tampa, Fla. and is not expected to be able to help at the big league level this year, Girardi said. Bailey signed a Minor League deal with the Yanks in February.
On this date in 1948, Babe Ruth passed away at the age of 53. Ruth’s body was laid in state at the entrance of Yankee Stadium for the next two days. On this date in 2006, the Yankees broke ground on the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.
The math of standing eight games out of the division lead with 43 games to play suggests, as Shawn Kelley stated late on Wednesday in Baltimore, that the Wild Card could be a more attainable goal than chasing down the division title.
But Kelley was quick to state that no one in the Yankees’ clubhouse would consider catching the Orioles to be out of reach, and captain Derek Jeter has repeatedly pointed out that the Yankees can still take hold of their own destiny in the race.
“We still play everybody,” Jeter said. “You know me; I’ll tell you, if you win your games, you don’t have to worry about anything. You worry about things when you don’t play the guys in front of you. We play [the Orioles] eight times. We play the people that are in front of us.”
Baseball Prospectus, which calculates playoff odds on a daily basis, pegged the Yankees as having only a 2.8 percent chance to win the division as of Friday morning. BP also didn’t love the Yanks’ chances of simply making it to the postseason, offering a 4.8 percent chance of winning a Wild Card.
“Obviously you’re closer in the Wild Card than you are in the division, but we still have plenty of games left with Baltimore,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Our goal will be to win the division and we’ll continue to fight for that, but at the very least, you want to make the playoffs.”
Girardi said that there is no reason to speak to his team about keeping the right mindset; he said that his players understand what is at stake. They can take their cues from Jeter, who certainly does not want his final postseason memory to be his shattered ankle in the 2012 American League Championship Series.
“You worry about things you don’t have control over,” Jeter said. “We have control over what happens. We’re not making it easy on ourselves, but we still control it.”
Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw 25 pitches off of a bullpen mound on Saturday at Tropicana Field, which will mark the right-hander’s first time throwing from the rubber since a July 8 start against the Indians.
Tanaka is continuing to rehab a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament, and the Yankees are hopeful that he will be able to make it back for two or three starts at the big league level in September. Saturday’s session will consist of 25 fastballs.
“I still think it’s early to tell, but we’re getting through each step,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Hopefully tomorrow goes well and we can move to the next step.”
Tanaka threw long toss and performed fielding practice from the mound on Friday afternoon, and said that actually throwing off the mound will be an crucial step in his recovery.
“I think so,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “If I can’t throw the way I want to throw on a mound or in a bullpen, then there’s no way I’ll be able to throw that in a game. So, definitely the bullpen will be important.”
Three doctors recommended that Tanaka attempt to rehab the ligament tear instead of rushing to have Tommy John surgery. Girardi said that he hopes the process will pay dividends.
“That’s why we’re going through it,” Girardi said. “Obviously you’ve got to find out if it’s the proper thing to do and if his arm going to hold up. You’d hate to shut him down the whole year and then go through it next year. Everything has been positive so far. He said he feels good, but you really don’t ever know.”
Brian McCann has rejoined the Yankees in Florida after spending the Orioles series in New York, recovering from a mild concussion.
McCann participated in on-field activities on Friday, performing catching drills and taking batting practice, and could be activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Saturday.
“I’m really happy with the way today went as a whole,” McCann said. “Now it’s a matter of seeing how I feel in an hour, seeing how I feel in two hours. I’ll know more tonight.”
McCann said that he started to feel better after three days of rest. He was hit by a foul tip in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.
“I never thought that I would ever come out of a game from a foul tip,” McCann said. “The way it hit me, it’s definitely the hardest I’ve ever been hit.”
Chase Headley has played 62 straight errorless games at third base going into play on Wednesday, marking the second-longest active streak in the Majors. The Giants’ Pablo Sandoval has the lead, at 67.
On this date in 1955, Mickey Mantle homered from both sides of the plate for the second time in his career in a 12-6 Yankees victory at Baltimore.