Thursday, October 15, 2015

Are We Still Worried About Tanaka in 2016?

The talk of the offseason before the 2015 season around many New York Yankees fans water coolers was centered around all the question marks entering the year. Would Mark Teixeira be healthy and able to beat the shift? Was Carlos Beltran done and would Brian McCann improve? Would the shoulder of Michael Pineda, the elbow of Ivan Nova, the knee of CC Sabathia and the elbow of Masahiro Tanaka hold up? While many of those questions were answered in 2015 a few of them probably still linger into the 2016 season, is Tanaka’s elbow one of them?

First and foremost, before I get bombarded with tweets and emails about how Tanaka needs to get the surgery done to “repair” a ligament that isn’t broken (per five doctors including Dr. James Andrews, not just speculating), Tanaka should not just go get Tommy John surgery just for kicks and giggles. That’s the wrong opinion and there’s no doubt about it. If the ligament tears then you get the surgery, not before. Tommy John surgery has come a long way since becoming so prevalent in Major League Baseball but it’s not 100% effective. Ask Ryan Madson, ask these guys getting their second and third UCL’s replace ask anyone who has had the surgery since Tommy John made it mainstream and never made it back to the mound. That’s like saying we should completely break Mark Teixeira’s leg and start from scratch because the fracture, which is exactly what Tanaka’s less than 10% tear that was treated with rest and rehab, is.

Anyway, sorry I had to get that off my chest. The Yankees pitched Tanaka as often as they could on five days of rest or more in 2015, should we expect the same out of the club in 2016? Honestly I think they will, the team is going to milk Tanaka’s arm out and baby it as long as they can (and again before you flood my email let’s remember that Ervin Santana had a partially torn UCL and never had the surgery and Adam Wainwright pitched for a long, long time before needing the surgery) with the hopes of at least getting him to his 2017 opt-out date healthy.

New York has a laundry list of names that will be vying for a starting rotation spot and once again most of the team would benefit from the extra rest that would come along with a true six-man rotation or an occasional 6th man. Luis Severino’s innings may become a concern if he makes 30+ starts, Ivan Nova is still recovering from Tommy John surgery himself, Michael Pineda’s shoulder will probably always be a concern, Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow inflammation is scary for a former TJS recipient and CC Sabathia’s knee could break at any second. So if you’re asking me if Tanaka will still be handled with delicate white gloves in 2016 the answer is probably a YES. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)