Yankees ace Tanaka has torn elbow ligament
Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees sits in the dugout after leaving the game during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 8, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio - by Jason Miller
Two days after Tanaka's worst outing since leaving Japan in January to join the Yankees and a day after being put on the disabled list, Tanaka was given hope that he might avoid season-ending surgery.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Tanaka had been seen by three doctors and diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow after an MRI exam.
None of the doctors recommended surgery for the 25-year-old right-hander, instead suggesting rehabilitation that could put him back on the mound for the Yankees by late August.
"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."
Cashman called the tendon tear a small one and said that a platelet-enriched plasma injection would be given to Tanaka next week in New York.
If rehabilitation does not repair the damage, Tanaka likely would need "Tommy John" tendon replacement surgery, an operation from which the normal recovery time 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 signed a seven-year deal worth $155 million with the Yankees after an unbeaten campaign last year for the Japan League champion Rakuten Eagles.
In a 5-3 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday, Tanaka allowed season highs of five runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Yankees, who now have four of their five opening-day starting pitchers on Major League Baseball's disabled list, saw Tanaka start the season 11-1 with a stellar 1.99 earned-run average.
But since then, Tanaka has gone 1-3 with a 4.25 earned-run average.
C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda are other New York pitchers who have been sidelined. That will make Cashman aggressive when it comes to looking at free agents and trade deals.
"We have been aggressive because now we've got four starters that we were planning to have in the rotation out," Cashman said. "We will continue to be aggressive. We are in the middle of a division fight and we want to stay in the fight."
At 46-44, the Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind American League East division leader Baltimore.
Tanaka, 12-4 overall with a 2.51 earned-run average in his North American debut season, was named to Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis but was replaced by a compatriot, Boston reliever Koji Uehara.
"I'm disappointed," Cashman said. "He's an important piece. We've had a lot of important pieces that we've seen miss action. We have to continue to figure a way to plug the hole and also be hopeful and optimistic for Masahiro."
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