Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees is to return to the mound after being struck by a line drive off the bat of Yankees right fielder Giancarlo Stanton on July 4 in a Spring Training 2.0 game.
This is very good news for the Yankees, as his return has been questionable. If the MLB starts any time soon, chances are that he will be ready to start and show a great performance.
Tanaka Almost Didn’t Return
Tanaka took a 112-mph hit to the head in what could only be described as a potentially career-ending blow. He was down for about five minutes before he sat up, and was, fortunately, able to walk off the field on his own two feet, but with a little assistance from two trainers. After a visit to a nearby hospital, he was found to be alright, but still had to follow league concussion protocols to ensure there wasn’t any lingering damage.
Down, But Never Out
Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on his return Thursday in his first appearance after the incident. Aaron Boone, the Yankees’ manager, said that his throws have an “amazing intensity” and that he was motivated by what he saw in the practice session. The expectations on this player are high; he is one of the best acquisitions by the Yankees, and he’s got a lot of talent.
On the same matter, team pitching coach Matt Blake said that Tanaka was able to achieve 88-91 mph pitches and threw all his balls with success. Tanaka is expected to participate in another bullpen practice this coming Sunday. Then, next week he will be ready to deal with batters.
Boone is aware that Tanaka is not at his full potential. In this regard, he commented, “I’d probably be a little surprised if it’s the first rotation through. And then it’s just, again, seeing how his next bullpen goes, seeing how his facing live hitters go, and then what’s the best decision for us and for Masa as far as do we want to build him up entirely at a big league level or do we want him to continue to build up and get to a point to where he’s built up more like a starter?”
If everything goes well, the MLB is set to start on July 23. Gerrit Cole is slated to start in the opening game, and left-hander James Paxton will be in the second game. Tanaka and J.A. Happ will be considered part of a rotation that supposedly might also guarantee the participation by left-hander Jordan Montgomery. Tanaka is a great player and his performance is always promising. However, he might need some more days off to completely recover; the injury he suffered put him off the training sessions for some days.
Yankees Have Some Flexibility With Rotation
According to MLB rules, teams are allowed to maintain 30 active players for the first two weeks of the delayed season, so the Yankees can be flexible with Tanaka and not force him to return, seeking his total recovery. The MLB will, hopefully, resume next Thursday, July 23, and everybody has big expectations, including fans, coaches, managers, players and staff members.
The Yankees won’t decide until the restart of the season whether Tanaka is ready to return to play or if he goes on the injured list. Boone hopes that, by Wednesday, they might know if Tanaka is eligible to join the team again or if he needs more days to get better.
Other Changes To Lineup Are Possible
A few other Yankees might get stopped from joining the season. Infielder DJ LeMahieu and right-hander Luis Cessa both tested positive for COVID-19 and, despite this, chances are they are closer to come back. First baseman Luke Voit said that it was exciting to know that LeMahieu was ready to join the league again and everyone is anxious to get back on the field.
LeMahieu signed a contract with the Yankees before the 2019 season and scored a target of .327. He had an impressive record with 26 homers and 102 RBI, and he broke time among first, second and third place. After shortstop Didi Gregorius left as a free agent, LeMahieu is supposed to be most likely a second baseman this 2020 season since Gleyber Torres changed to shortstop.