Yankees Editorial: Spring Training To Be A Huge Test For Masahiro Tanaka


Reality is finally starting to settle in for the New York Yankees, as pitchers and catchers are set to report in just four days to Tampa, Florida. While the main focus has been on Alex Rodriguez the last few weeks and what is to be expected from him, the team needs to shift their focus and start talking about how they are going to cautiously handle Masahiro Tanaka.

For someone who is even a slight baseball fan, they are most likely aware of how special this right hander is. When the Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $155 million contract last off-season, they knew they were taking a gamble. They were aware of how dominant his stuff was back in Japan, but wasn’t sure if coming into the major leagues would have any effect on his pitching. Boy were they surprised alright.

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Tanaka was cruising through games in his rookie career this past season, as he put up a 12-2 record with an incredible 1.99 ERA. He received the title of the ace in place of CC Sabathia, and he earned that in every way possible. The Yankees thought they had their rotation locked down, until four of the five starting pitchers landed on the disabled list throughout the season. One of them unfortunately was Tanaka.

In his last four starts prior to finally being shut down, he just wasn’t being himself out there. His ERA climbed up to a 4.43, and he was giving up way too many hits in just a short amount of innings. The Yankees finally decided to pull him after his rough start on July 8, and figured it would be smart to have him undergo an MRI.

The MRI revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Basically, it is an injury that had Tommy John surgery being talked about as an option.

However, Tanaka didn’t want to do the surgery because it would cost him a year from pitching. With the help of his hard work during his rehabilitation clinics, he somehow avoided the surgery, and was able to come back and make two quality starts in September at the end of the season.

As he is preparing to start working out with the team by the end of the week, all the Yankees can do is hold their breath and hope that no pain is mentioned from his arm. If he can stay healthy, he can carry this pitching staff extremely far during the upcoming season. If not, it will become another nightmare for manager Joe Girardi.


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